The Moonstone (Chapter 9, page 1 of 8)

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Chapter 9

Keeping my private sentiments to myself, I respectfully requested Mr.
Franklin to go on. Mr. Franklin replied, "Don't fidget, Betteredge," and
went on.

Our young gentleman's first words informed me that his discoveries,
concerning the wicked Colonel and the Diamond, had begun with a visit
which he had paid (before he came to us) to the family lawyer, at
Hampstead. A chance word dropped by Mr. Franklin, when the two were
alone, one day, after dinner, revealed that he had been charged by his
father with a birthday present to be taken to Miss Rachel. One thing
led to another; and it ended in the lawyer mentioning what the present
really was, and how the friendly connexion between the late Colonel
and Mr. Blake, senior, had taken its rise. The facts here are really so
extraordinary, that I doubt if I can trust my own language to do justice
to them. I prefer trying to report Mr. Franklin's discoveries, as nearly
as may be, in Mr. Franklin's own words.

"You remember the time, Betteredge," he said, "when my father was trying
to prove his title to that unlucky Dukedom? Well! that was also the time
when my uncle Herncastle returned from India. My father discovered that
his brother-in-law was in possession of certain papers which were likely
to be of service to him in his lawsuit. He called on the Colonel, on
pretence of welcoming him back to England. The Colonel was not to be
deluded in that way. 'You want something,' he said, 'or you would never
have compromised your reputation by calling on ME.' My father saw that
the one chance for him was to show his hand; he admitted, at once,
that he wanted the papers. The Colonel asked for a day to consider his
answer. His answer came in the shape of a most extraordinary letter,
which my friend the lawyer showed me. The Colonel began by saying that
he wanted something of my father, and that he begged to propose an
exchange of friendly services between them. The fortune of war (that
was the expression he used) had placed him in possession of one of the
largest Diamonds in the world; and he had reason to believe that neither
he nor his precious jewel was safe in any house, in any quarter of the
globe, which they occupied together. Under these alarming circumstances,
he had determined to place his Diamond in the keeping of another person.
That person was not expected to run any risk. He might deposit the
precious stone in any place especially guarded and set apart--like a
banker's or jeweller's strong-room--for the safe custody of valuables of
high price. His main personal responsibility in the matter was to be
of the passive kind. He was to undertake either by himself, or by a
trustworthy representative--to receive at a prearranged address, on
certain prearranged days in every year, a note from the Colonel, simply
stating the fact that he was a living man at that date. In the event
of the date passing over without the note being received, the Colonel's
silence might be taken as a sure token of the Colonel's death by murder.
In that case, and in no other, certain sealed instructions relating to
the disposal of the Diamond, and deposited with it, were to be opened,
and followed implicitly. If my father chose to accept this strange
charge, the Colonel's papers were at his disposal in return. That was
the letter."

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