The Moonstone (Chapter 8, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 8

The first thing I did, after we were left together alone, was to make a
third attempt to get up from my seat on the sand. Mr. Franklin stopped
me.

"There is one advantage about this horrid place," he said; "we have got
it all to ourselves. Stay where you are, Betteredge; I have something to
say to you."

While he was speaking, I was looking at him, and trying to see something
of the boy I remembered, in the man before me. The man put me out. Look
as I might, I could see no more of his boy's rosy cheeks than of his
boy's trim little jacket. His complexion had got pale: his face, at the
lower part was covered, to my great surprise and disappointment, with a
curly brown beard and mustachios. He had a lively touch-and-go way with
him, very pleasant and engaging, I admit; but nothing to compare with
his free-and-easy manners of other times. To make matters worse, he
had promised to be tall, and had not kept his promise. He was neat, and
slim, and well made; but he wasn't by an inch or two up to the middle
height. In short, he baffled me altogether. The years that had passed
had left nothing of his old self, except the bright, straightforward
look in his eyes. There I found our nice boy again, and there I
concluded to stop in my investigation.

"Welcome back to the old place, Mr. Franklin," I said. "All the more
welcome, sir, that you have come some hours before we expected you."

"I have a reason for coming before you expected me," answered Mr.
Franklin. "I suspect, Betteredge, that I have been followed and watched
in London, for the last three or four days; and I have travelled by
the morning instead of the afternoon train, because I wanted to give a
certain dark-looking stranger the slip."

Those words did more than surprise me. They brought back to my mind, in
a flash, the three jugglers, and Penelope's notion that they meant some
mischief to Mr. Franklin Blake.

"Who's watching you, sir,--and why?" I inquired.

"Tell me about the three Indians you have had at the house to-day,"
says Mr. Franklin, without noticing my question. "It's just possible,
Betteredge, that my stranger and your three jugglers may turn out to be
pieces of the same puzzle."

"How do you come to know about the jugglers, sir?" I asked, putting one
question on the top of another, which was bad manners, I own. But you
don't expect much from poor human nature--so don't expect much from me.

"I saw Penelope at the house," says Mr. Franklin; "and Penelope told me.
Your daughter promised to be a pretty girl, Betteredge, and she has kept
her promise. Penelope has got a small ear and a small foot. Did the late
Mrs. Betteredge possess those inestimable advantages?"

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