First Period: The Loss of the Diamond (1848) - XV
The Sergeant remained silent, thinking his own thoughts, till we entered the plantation of firs which led to the quicksand. There he roused himself, like a man whose mind was made up, and spoke to me again.
“Mr. Betteredge,” he said, “as you have honoured me by taking an oar in my boat, and as you may, I think, be of some assistance to me before the evening is out, I see no use in our mystifying one another any longer, and I propose to set you an example of plain speaking on my side. You are determined to give me no information to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearman, because she has been a good girl to YOU, and because you pity her heartily. Those humane considerations do you a world of credit, but they happen in this instance to be humane considerations clean thrown away. Rosanna Spearman is not in the slightest danger of getting into trouble—no, not if I fix her with being concerned in the disappearance of the Diamond, on evidence which is as plain as the nose on your face!”
“Do you mean that my lady won’t prosecute?” I asked.
“I mean that your lady CAN’T prosecute,” said the Sergeant. “Rosanna Spearman is simply an instrument in the hands of another person, and Rosanna Spearman will be held harmless for that other person’s sake.”
He spoke like a man in earnest—there was no denying that. Still, I felt something stirring uneasily against him in my mind. “Can’t you give that other person a name?” I said.
“Can’t you, Mr. Betteredge?”
Sergeant Cuff stood stock still, and surveyed me with a look of melancholy interest.
“It’s always a pleasure to me to be tender towards human infirmity,” he said. “I feel particularly tender at the present moment, Mr. Betteredge, towards you. And you, with the same excellent motive, feel particularly tender towards Rosanna Spearman, don’t you? Do you happen to know whether she has had a new outfit of linen lately?”
What he meant by slipping in this extraordinary question unawares, I was at a total loss to imagine. Seeing no possible injury to Rosanna if I owned the truth, I answered that the girl had come to us rather sparely provided with linen, and that my lady, in recompense for her good conduct (I laid a stress on her good conduct), had given her a new outfit not a fortnight since.
“This is a miserable world,” says the Sergeant. “Human life, Mr. Betteredge, is a sort of target—misfortune is always firing at it, and always hitting the mark. But for that outfit, we should have discovered a new nightgown or petticoat among Rosanna’s things, and have nailed her in that way. You’re not at a loss to follow me, are you? You have examined the servants yourself, and you know what discoveries two of them made outside Rosanna’s door. Surely you know what the girl was about yesterday, after she was taken ill? You can’t guess? Oh dear me, it’s as plain as that strip of light there, at the end of the trees. At eleven, on Thursday morning, Superintendent Seegrave (who is a mass of human infirmity) points out to all the women servants the smear on the door. Rosanna has her own reasons for suspecting her own things; she takes the first opportunity of getting to her room, finds the paint-stain on her night-gown, or petticoat, or what not, shams ill and slips away to the town, gets the materials for making a new petticoat or nightgown, makes it alone in her room on the Thursday night lights a fire (not to destroy it; two of her fellow-servants are prying outside her door, and she knows better than to make a smell of burning, and to have a lot of tinder to get rid of)—lights a fire, I say, to dry and iron the substitute dress after wringing it out, keeps the stained dress hidden (probably ON her), and is at this moment occupied in making away with it, in some convenient place, on that lonely bit of beach ahead of us. I have traced her this evening to your fishing village, and to one particular cottage, which we may possibly have to visit, before we go back. She stopped in the cottage for some time, and she came out with (as I believe) something hidden under her cloak. A cloak (on a woman’s back) is an emblem of charity—it covers a multitude of sins. I saw her set off northwards along the coast, after leaving the cottage. Is your sea-shore here considered a fine specimen of marine landscape, Mr. Betteredge?”
I answered, “Yes,” as shortly as might be.
“Tastes differ,” says Sergeant Cuff. “Looking at it from my point of view, I never saw a marine landscape that I admired less. If you happen to be following another person along your sea-coast, and if that person happens to look round, there isn’t a scrap of cover to hide you anywhere. I had to choose between taking Rosanna in custody on suspicion, or leaving her, for the time being, with her little game in her own hands. For reasons which I won’t trouble you with, I decided on making any sacrifice rather than give the alarm as soon as to-night to a certain person who shall be nameless between us. I came back to the house to ask you to take me to the north end of the beach by another way. Sand—in respect of its printing off people’s footsteps—is one of the best detective officers I know. If we don’t meet with Rosanna Spearman by coming round on her in this way, the sand may tell us what she has been at, if the light only lasts long enough. Here IS the sand. If you will excuse my suggesting it—suppose you hold your tongue, and let me go first?”
If there is such a thing known at the doctor’s shop as a DETECTIVE-FEVER, that disease had now got fast hold of your humble servant. Sergeant Cuff went on between the hillocks of sand, down to the beach. I followed him (with my heart in my mouth); and waited at a little distance for what was to happen next.
As it turned out, I found myself standing nearly in the same place where Rosanna Spearman and I had been talking together when Mr. Franklin suddenly appeared before us, on arriving at our house from London. While my eyes were watching the Sergeant, my mind wandered away in spite of me to what had passed, on that former occasion, between Rosanna and me. I declare I almost felt the poor thing slip her hand again into mine, and give it a little grateful squeeze to thank me for speaking kindly to her. I declare I almost heard her voice telling me again that the Shivering Sand seemed to draw her to it against her own will, whenever she went out—almost saw her face brighten again, as it brightened when she first set eyes upon Mr. Franklin coming briskly out on us from among the hillocks. My spirits fell lower and lower as I thought of these things—and the view of the lonesome little bay, when I looked about to rouse myself, only served to make me feel more uneasy still.
The last of the evening light was fading away; and over all the desolate place there hung a still and awful calm. The heave of the main ocean on the great sandbank out in the bay, was a heave that made no sound. The inner sea lay lost and dim, without a breath of wind to stir it. Patches of nasty ooze floated, yellow-white, on the dead surface of the water. Scum and slime shone faintly in certain places, where the last of the light still caught them on the two great spits of rock jutting out, north and south, into the sea. It was now the time of the turn of the tide: and even as I stood there waiting, the broad brown face of the quicksand began to dimple and quiver—the only moving thing in all the horrid place.
I saw the Sergeant start as the shiver of the sand caught his eye. After looking at it for a minute or so, he turned and came back to me.
“A treacherous place, Mr. Betteredge,” he said; “and no signs of Rosanna Spearman anywhere on the beach, look where you may.”
He took me down lower on the shore, and I saw for myself that his footsteps and mine were the only footsteps printed off on the sand.
“How does the fishing village bear, standing where we are now?” asked Sergeant Cuff.
“Cobb’s Hole,” I answered (that being the name of the place), “bears as near as may be, due south.”
“I saw the girl this evening, walking northward along the shore, from Cobb’s Hole,” said the Sergeant. “Consequently, she must have been walking towards this place. Is Cobb’s Hole on the other side of that point of land there? And can we get to it—now it’s low water—by the beach?”
I answered, “Yes,” to both those questions.
“If you’ll excuse my suggesting it, we’ll step out briskly,” said the Sergeant. “I want to find the place where she left the shore, before it gets dark.”
We had walked, I should say, a couple of hundred yards towards Cobb’s Hole, when Sergeant Cuff suddenly went down on his knees on the beach, to all appearance seized with a sudden frenzy for saying his prayers.
“There’s something to be said for your marine landscape here, after all,” remarked the Sergeant. “Here are a woman’s footsteps, Mr. Betteredge! Let us call them Rosanna’s footsteps, until we find evidence to the contrary that we can’t resist. Very confused footsteps, you will please to observe—purposely confused, I should say. Ah, poor soul, she understands the detective virtues of sand as well as I do! But hasn’t she been in rather too great a hurry to tread out the marks thoroughly? I think she has. Here’s one footstep going FROM Cobb’s Hole; and here is another going back to it. Isn’t that the toe of her shoe pointing straight to the water’s edge? And don’t I see two heel-marks further down the beach, close at the water’s edge also? I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’m afraid Rosanna is sly. It looks as if she had determined to get to that place you and I have just come from, without leaving any marks on the sand to trace her by. Shall we say that she walked through the water from this point till she got to that ledge of rocks behind us, and came back the same way, and then took to the beach again where those two heel marks are still left? Yes, we’ll say that. It seems to fit in with my notion that she had something under her cloak, when she left the cottage. No! not something to destroy—for, in that case, where would have been the need of all these precautions to prevent my tracing the place at which her walk ended? Something to hide is, I think, the better guess of the two. Perhaps, if we go on to the cottage, we may find out what that something is?”
At this proposal, my detective-fever suddenly cooled. “You don’t want me,” I said. “What good can I do?”
“The longer I know you, Mr. Betteredge,” said the Sergeant, “the more virtues I discover. Modesty—oh dear me, how rare modesty is in this world! and how much of that rarity you possess! If I go alone to the cottage, the people’s tongues will be tied at the first question I put to them. If I go with you, I go introduced by a justly respected neighbour, and a flow of conversation is the necessary result. It strikes me in that light; how does it strike you?”
Not having an answer of the needful smartness as ready as I could have wished, I tried to gain time by asking him what cottage he wanted to go to.
On the Sergeant describing the place, I recognised it as a cottage inhabited by a fisherman named Yolland, with his wife and two grown-up children, a son and a daughter. If you will look back, you will find that, in first presenting Rosanna Spearman to your notice, I have described her as occasionally varying her walk to the Shivering Sand, by a visit to some friends of hers at Cobb’s Hole. Those friends were the Yollands—respectable, worthy people, a credit to the neighbourhood. Rosanna’s acquaintance with them had begun by means of the daughter, who was afflicted with a misshapen foot, and who was known in our parts by the name of Limping Lucy. The two deformed girls had, I suppose, a kind of fellow-feeling for each other. Anyway, the Yollands and Rosanna always appeared to get on together, at the few chances they had of meeting, in a pleasant and friendly manner. The fact of Sergeant Cuff having traced the girl to THEIR cottage, set the matter of my helping his inquiries in quite a new light. Rosanna had merely gone where she was in the habit of going; and to show that she had been in company with the fisherman and his family was as good as to prove that she had been innocently occupied so far, at any rate. It would be doing the girl a service, therefore, instead of an injury, if I allowed myself to be convinced by Sergeant Cuff’s logic. I professed myself convinced by it accordingly.
We went on to Cobb’s Hole, seeing the footsteps on the sand, as long as the light lasted.
On reaching the cottage, the fisherman and his son proved to be out in the boat; and Limping Lucy, always weak and weary, was resting on her bed up-stairs. Good Mrs. Yolland received us alone in her kitchen. When she heard that Sergeant Cuff was a celebrated character in London, she clapped a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple of clean pipes on the table, and stared as if she could never see enough of him.
I sat quiet in a corner, waiting to hear how the Sergeant would find his way to the subject of Rosanna Spearman. His usual roundabout manner of going to work proved, on this occasion, to be more roundabout than ever. How he managed it is more than I could tell at the time, and more than I can tell now. But this is certain, he began with the Royal Family, the Primitive Methodists, and the price of fish; and he got from that (in his dismal, underground way) to the loss of the Moonstone, the spitefulness of our first house-maid, and the hard behaviour of the women-servants generally towards Rosanna Spearman. Having reached his subject in this fashion, he described himself as making his inquiries about the lost Diamond, partly with a view to find it, and partly for the purpose of clearing Rosanna from the unjust suspicions of her enemies in the house. In about a quarter of an hour from the time when we entered the kitchen, good Mrs. Yolland was persuaded that she was talking to Rosanna’s best friend, and was pressing Sergeant Cuff to comfort his stomach and revive his spirits out of the Dutch bottle.
Being firmly persuaded that the Sergeant was wasting his breath to no purpose on Mrs. Yolland, I sat enjoying the talk between them, much as I have sat, in my time, enjoying a stage play. The great Cuff showed a wonderful patience; trying his luck drearily this way and that way, and firing shot after shot, as it were, at random, on the chance of hitting the mark. Everything to Rosanna’s credit, nothing to Rosanna’s prejudice—that was how it ended, try as he might; with Mrs. Yolland talking nineteen to the dozen, and placing the most entire confidence in him. His last effort was made, when we had looked at our watches, and had got on our legs previous to taking leave.
“I shall now wish you good-night, ma’am,” says the Sergeant. “And I shall only say, at parting, that Rosanna Spearman has a sincere well-wisher in myself, your obedient servant. But, oh dear me! she will never get on in her present place; and my advice to her is—leave it.”
“Bless your heart alive! she is GOING to leave it!” cries Mrs. Yolland. (NOTA BENE—I translate Mrs. Yolland out of the Yorkshire language into the English language. When I tell you that the all-accomplished Cuff was every now and then puzzled to understand her until I helped him, you will draw your own conclusions as to what your state of mind would be if I reported her in her native tongue.)
Rosanna Spearman going to leave us! I pricked up my ears at that. It seemed strange, to say the least of it, that she should have given no warning, in the first place, to my lady or to me. A certain doubt came up in my mind whether Sergeant Cuff’s last random shot might not have hit the mark. I began to question whether my share in the proceedings was quite as harmless a one as I had thought it. It might be all in the way of the Sergeant’s business to mystify an honest woman by wrapping her round in a network of lies but it was my duty to have remembered, as a good Protestant, that the father of lies is the Devil—and that mischief and the Devil are never far apart. Beginning to smell mischief in the air, I tried to take Sergeant Cuff out. He sat down again instantly, and asked for a little drop of comfort out of the Dutch bottle. Mrs Yolland sat down opposite to him, and gave him his nip. I went on to the door, excessively uncomfortable, and said I thought I must bid them good-night—and yet I didn’t go.
“So she means to leave?” says the Sergeant. “What is she to do when she does leave? Sad, sad! The poor creature has got no friends in the world, except you and me.”
“Ah, but she has though!” says Mrs. Yolland. “She came in here, as I told you, this evening; and, after sitting and talking a little with my girl Lucy and me she asked to go up-stairs by herself, into Lucy’s room. It’s the only room in our place where there’s pen and ink. ‘I want to write a letter to a friend,’ she says ‘and I can’t do it for the prying and peeping of the servants up at the house.’ Who the letter was written to I can’t tell you: it must have been a mortal long one, judging by the time she stopped up-stairs over it. I offered her a postage-stamp when she came down. She hadn’t got the letter in her hand, and she didn’t accept the stamp. A little close, poor soul (as you know), about herself and her doings. But a friend she has got somewhere, I can tell you; and to that friend you may depend upon it, she will go.”
“Soon?” asked the Sergeant.
“As soon as she can.” says Mrs. Yolland.
Here I stepped in again from the door. As chief of my lady’s establishment, I couldn’t allow this sort of loose talk about a servant of ours going, or not going, to proceed any longer in my presence, without noticing it.
“You must be mistaken about Rosanna Spearman,” I said. “If she had been going to leave her present situation, she would have mentioned it, in the first place, to me.”
“Mistaken?” cries Mrs. Yolland. “Why, only an hour ago she bought some things she wanted for travelling—of my own self, Mr. Betteredge, in this very room. And that reminds me,” says the wearisome woman, suddenly beginning to feel in her pocket, “of something I have got it on my mind to say about Rosanna and her money. Are you either of you likely to see her when you go back to the house?”
“I’ll take a message to the poor thing, with the greatest pleasure,” answered Sergeant Cuff, before I could put in a word edgewise.
Mrs. Yolland produced out of her pocket, a few shillings and sixpences, and counted them out with a most particular and exasperating carefulness in the palm of her hand. She offered the money to the Sergeant, looking mighty loth to part with it all the while.
“Might I ask you to give this back to Rosanna, with my love and respects?” says Mrs. Yolland. “She insisted on paying me for the one or two things she took a fancy to this evening—and money’s welcome enough in our house, I don’t deny it. Still, I’m not easy in my mind about taking the poor thing’s little savings. And to tell you the truth, I don’t think my man would like to hear that I had taken Rosanna Spearman’s money, when he comes back to-morrow morning from his work. Please say she’s heartily welcome to the things she bought of me—as a gift. And don’t leave the money on the table,” says Mrs. Yolland, putting it down suddenly before the Sergeant, as if it burnt her fingers—“don’t, there’s a good man! For times are hard, and flesh is weak; and I MIGHT feel tempted to put it back in my pocket again.”
“Come along!” I said, “I can’t wait any longer: I must go back to the house.”
“I’ll follow you directly,” says Sergeant Cuff.
For the second time, I went to the door; and, for the second time, try as I might, I couldn’t cross the threshold.
“It’s a delicate matter, ma’am,” I heard the Sergeant say, “giving money back. You charged her cheap for the things, I’m sure?”
“Cheap!” says Mrs. Yolland. “Come and judge for yourself.”
She took up the candle and led the Sergeant to a corner of the kitchen. For the life of me, I couldn’t help following them. Shaken down in the corner was a heap of odds and ends (mostly old metal), which the fisherman had picked up at different times from wrecked ships, and which he hadn’t found a market for yet, to his own mind. Mrs. Yolland dived into this rubbish, and brought up an old japanned tin case, with a cover to it, and a hasp to hang it up by—the sort of thing they use, on board ship, for keeping their maps and charts, and such-like, from the wet.
“There!” says she. “When Rosanna came in this evening, she bought the fellow to that. ‘It will just do,’ she says, ‘to put my cuffs and collars in, and keep them from being crumpled in my box.’ One and ninepence, Mr. Cuff. As I live by bread, not a halfpenny more!”
“Dirt cheap!” says the Sergeant, with a heavy sigh.
He weighed the case in his hand. I thought I heard a note or two of “The Last Rose of Summer” as he looked at it. There was no doubt now! He had made another discovery to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearman, in the place of all others where I thought her character was safest, and all through me! I leave you to imagine what I felt, and how sincerely I repented having been the medium of introduction between Mrs. Yolland and Sergeant Cuff.
“That will do,” I said. “We really must go.”
Without paying the least attention to me, Mrs. Yolland took another dive into the rubbish, and came up out of it, this time, with a dog-chain.
“Weigh it in your hand, sir,” she said to the Sergeant. “We had three of these; and Rosanna has taken two of them. ‘What can you want, my dear, with a couple of dog’s chains?’ says I. ‘If I join them together they’ll do round my box nicely,’ says she. ‘Rope’s cheapest,’ says I. ‘Chain’s surest,’ says she. ‘Who ever heard of a box corded with chain,’ says I. ‘Oh, Mrs. Yolland, don’t make objections!’ says she; ‘let me have my chains!’ A strange girl, Mr. Cuff—good as gold, and kinder than a sister to my Lucy—but always a little strange. There! I humoured her. Three and sixpence. On the word of an honest woman, three and sixpence, Mr. Cuff!”
“Each?” says the Sergeant.
“Both together!” says Mrs. Yolland. “Three and sixpence for the two.”
“Given away, ma’am,” says the Sergeant, shaking his head. “Clean given away!”
“There’s the money,” says Mrs. Yolland, getting back sideways to the little heap of silver on the table, as if it drew her in spite of herself. “The tin case and the dog chains were all she bought, and all she took away. One and ninepence and three and sixpence—total, five and three. With my love and respects—and I can’t find it in my conscience to take a poor girl’s savings, when she may want them herself.”
“I can’t find it in MY conscience, ma’am, to give the money back,” says Sergeant Cuff. “You have as good as made her a present of the things—you have indeed.”
“Is that your sincere opinion, sir?” says Mrs. Yolland brightening up wonderfully.
“There can’t be a doubt about it,” answered the Sergeant. “Ask Mr. Betteredge.”
It was no use asking ME. All they got out of ME was, “Good-night.”
“Bother the money!” says Mrs. Yolland. With these words, she appeared to lose all command over herself; and, making a sudden snatch at the heap of silver, put it back, holus-bolus, in her pocket. “It upsets one’s temper, it does, to see it lying there, and nobody taking it,” cries this unreasonable woman, sitting down with a thump, and looking at Sergeant Cuff, as much as to say, “It’s in my pocket again now—get it out if you can!”
This time, I not only went to the door, but went fairly out on the road back. Explain it how you may, I felt as if one or both of them had mortally offended me. Before I had taken three steps down the village, I heard the Sergeant behind me.
“Thank you for your introduction, Mr. Betteredge,” he said. “I am indebted to the fisherman’s wife for an entirely new sensation. Mrs. Yolland has puzzled me.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to have given him a sharp answer, for no better reason than this—that I was out of temper with him, because I was out of temper with myself. But when he owned to being puzzled, a comforting doubt crossed my mind whether any great harm had been done after all. I waited in discreet silence to hear more.
“Yes,” says the Sergeant, as if he was actually reading my thoughts in the dark. “Instead of putting me on the scent, it may console you to know, Mr. Betteredge (with your interest in Rosanna), that you have been the means of throwing me off. What the girl has done, to-night, is clear enough, of course. She has joined the two chains, and has fastened them to the hasp in the tin case. She has sunk the case, in the water or in the quicksand. She has made the loose end of the chain fast to some place under the rocks, known only to herself. And she will leave the case secure at its anchorage till the present proceedings have come to an end; after which she can privately pull it up again out of its hiding-place, at her own leisure and convenience. All perfectly plain, so far. But,” says the Sergeant, with the first tone of impatience in his voice that I had heard yet, “the mystery is—what the devil has she hidden in the tin case?”
I thought to myself, “The Moonstone!” But I only said to Sergeant Cuff, “Can’t you guess?”
“It’s not the Diamond,” says the Sergeant. “The whole experience of my life is at fault, if Rosanna Spearman has got the Diamond.”
On hearing those words, the infernal detective-fever began, I suppose, to burn in me again. At any rate, I forgot myself in the interest of guessing this new riddle. I said rashly, “The stained dress!”
Sergeant Cuff stopped short in the dark, and laid his hand on my arm.
“Is anything thrown into that quicksand of yours, ever thrown up on the surface again?” he asked.
“Never,” I answered. “Light or heavy whatever goes into the Shivering Sand is sucked down, and seen no more.”
“Does Rosanna Spearman know that?”
“She knows it as well as I do.”
“Then,” says the Sergeant, “what on earth has she got to do but to tie up a bit of stone in the stained dress and throw it into the quicksand? There isn’t the shadow of a reason why she should have hidden it—and yet she must have hidden it. Query,” says the Sergeant, walking on again, “is the paint-stained dress a petticoat or a night-gown? or is it something else which there is a reason for preserving at any risk? Mr. Betteredge, if nothing occurs to prevent it, I must go to Frizinghall to-morrow, and discover what she bought in the town, when she privately got the materials for making the substitute dress. It’s a risk to leave the house, as things are now—but it’s a worse risk still to stir another step in this matter in the dark. Excuse my being a little out of temper; I’m degraded in my own estimation—I have let Rosanna Spearman puzzle me.”
When we got back, the servants were at supper. The first person we saw in the outer yard was the policeman whom Superintendent Seegrave had left at the Sergeant’s disposal. The Sergeant asked if Rosanna Spearman had returned. Yes. When? Nearly an hour since. What had she done? She had gone up-stairs to take off her bonnet and cloak—and she was now at supper quietly with the rest.
Without making any remark, Sergeant Cuff walked on, sinking lower and lower in his own estimation, to the back of the house. Missing the entrance in the dark, he went on (in spite of my calling to him) till he was stopped by a wicket-gate which led into the garden. When I joined him to bring him back by the right way, I found that he was looking up attentively at one particular window, on the bed-room floor, at the back of the house.
Looking up, in my turn, I discovered that the object of his contemplation was the window of Miss Rachel’s room, and that lights were passing backwards and forwards there as if something unusual was going on.
“Isn’t that Miss Verinder’s room?” asked Sergeant Cuff.
I replied that it was, and invited him to go in with me to supper. The Sergeant remained in his place, and said something about enjoying the smell of the garden at night. I left him to his enjoyment. Just as I was turning in at the door, I heard “The Last Rose of Summer” at the wicket-gate. Sergeant Cuff had made another discovery! And my young lady’s window was at the bottom of it this time!
The latter reflection took me back again to the Sergeant, with a polite intimation that I could not find it in my heart to leave him by himself. “Is there anything you don’t understand up there?” I added, pointing to Miss Rachel’s window.
Judging by his voice, Sergeant Cuff had suddenly risen again to the right place in his own estimation. “You are great people for betting in Yorkshire, are you not?” he asked.
“Well?” I said. “Suppose we are?”
“If I was a Yorkshireman,” proceeded the Sergeant, taking my arm, “I would lay you an even sovereign, Mr. Betteredge, that your young lady has suddenly resolved to leave the house. If I won on that event, I should offer to lay another sovereign, that the idea has occurred to her within the last hour.” The first of the Sergeant’s guesses startled me. The second mixed itself up somehow in my head with the report we had heard from the policeman, that Rosanna Spearman had returned from the sands with in the last hour. The two together had a curious effect on me as we went in to supper. I shook off Sergeant Cuff’s arm, and, forgetting my manners, pushed by him through the door to make my own inquiries for myself.
Samuel, the footman, was the first person I met in the passage.
“Her ladyship is waiting to see you and Sergeant Cuff,” he said, before I could put any questions to him.
“How long has she been waiting?” asked the Sergeant’s voice behind me.
“For the last hour, sir.”
There it was again! Rosanna had come back; Miss Rachel had taken some resolution out of the common; and my lady had been waiting to see the Sergeant—all within the last hour! It was not pleasant to find these very different persons and things linking themselves together in this way. I went on upstairs, without looking at Sergeant Cuff, or speaking to him. My hand took a sudden fit of trembling as I lifted it to knock at my mistress’s door.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” whispered the Sergeant over my shoulder, “if a scandal was to burst up in the house to-night. Don’t be alarmed! I have put the muzzle on worse family difficulties than this, in my time.”
As he said the words I heard my mistress’s voice calling to us to come in.