In the meantime, Rachel had settled herself at the window with our amiable and forbearing - our too forbearing - Mr. Godfrey. She began the string of questions with which she had threatened him, taking no more notice of her mother, or of myself, than if we had not been in the room.
"Have the police done anything, Godfrey?"
"It is certain, I suppose, that the three men who laid the trap for you were the same three men who afterwards laid the trap for Mr. Luker?"
"Humanly speaking, my dear Rachel, there can be no doubt of it."
"And not a trace of them has been discovered?"
"Not a trace."
"It is thought - is it not? - that these three men are the three Indians who came to our house in the country."
"Some people think so."
"Do you think so?"
"My dear Rachel, they blindfolded me before I could see their faces. I know nothing whatever of the matter. How can I offer an opinion on it?"
Even the angelic gentleness of Mr. Godfrey was, you see, beginning to give way at last under the persecution inflicted on him. Whether unbridled curiosity, or ungovernable dread, dictated Miss Verinder's questions I do not presume to inquire. I only report that, on Mr. Godfrey's attempting to rise, after giving her the answer just described, she actually took him by the two shoulders, and pushed him back into his chair - Oh, don't say this was immodest! don't even hint that the recklessness of guilty terror could alone account for such conduct as I have described! We must not judge others. My Christian friends, indeed, indeed, indeed, we must not judge others!
She went on with her questions, unabashed. Earnest Biblical students will perhaps be reminded - as I was reminded - of the blinded children of the devil, who went on with their orgies, unabashed, in the time before the Flood.
"I want to know something about Mr. Luker, Godfrey."
"I am again unfortunate, Rachel. No man knows less of Mr. Luker than I do."
"You never saw him before you and he met accidentally at the bank?"
"You have seen him since?"
"Yes. We have been examined together, as well as separately, to assist the police."
"Mr. Luker was robbed of a receipt which he had got from his banker's - was he not? What was the receipt for?"
"For a valuable gem which he had placed in the safe keeping of the bank."
"That's what the newspapers say. It may be enough for the general reader; but it is not enough for me. The banker's receipt must have mentioned what the gem was?"
"The banker's receipt, Rachel - as I have heard it described - mentioned nothing of the kind. A valuable gem, belonging to Mr. Luker; deposited by Mr. Luker; sealed with Mr. Luker's seal; and only to be given up on Mr. Luker's personal application. That was the form, and that is all I know about it."
She waited a moment, after he had said that. She looked at her mother, and sighed. She looked back again at Mr. Godfrey, and went on.
"Some of our private affairs, at home," she said, "seem to have got into the newspapers?"
"I grieve to say, it is so."
"And some idle people, perfect strangers to us, are trying to trace a connexion between what happened at our house in Yorkshire and what has happened since, here in London?"
"The public curiosity, in certain quarters, is, I fear, taking that turn."
"The people who say that the three unknown men who ill-used you and Mr. Luker are the three Indians, also say that the valuable gem - - "
There she stopped. She had become gradually, within the last few moments, whiter and whiter in the face. The extraordinary blackness of her hair made this paleness, by contrast, so ghastly to look at, that we all thought she would faint, at the moment when she checked herself in the middle of her question. Dear Mr. Godfrey made a second attempt to leave his chair. My aunt entreated her to say no more. I followed my aunt with a modest medicinal peace-offering, in the shape of a bottle of salts. We none of us produced the slightest effect on her. "Godfrey, stay where you are. Mamma, there is not the least reason to be alarmed about me. Clack, you're dying to hear the end of it - I won't faint, expressly to oblige YOU."
Those were the exact words she used - taken down in my diary the moment I got home. But, oh, don't let us judge! My Christian friends, don't let us judge!
She turned once more to Mr. Godfrey. With an obstinacy dreadful to see, she went back again to the place where she had checked herself, and completed her question in these words:
"I spoke to you, a minute since, about what people were saying in certain quarters. Tell me plainly, Godfrey, do they any of them say that Mr. Luker's valuable gem is - the Moonstone?"
As the name of the Indian Diamond passed her lips, I saw a change come over my admirable friend. His complexion deepened. He lost the genial suavity of manner which is one of his greatest charms. A noble indignation inspired his reply.
"They DO say it," he answered. "There are people who don't hesitate to accuse Mr. Luker of telling a falsehood to serve some private interests of his own. He has over and over again solemnly declared that, until this scandal assailed him, he had never even heard of the Moonstone. And these vile people reply, without a shadow of proof to justify them, He has his reasons for concealment; we decline to believe him on his oath. Shameful! shameful!"
Rachel looked at him very strangely - I can't well describe how - while he was speaking. When he had done, she said, "Considering that Mr. Luker is only a chance acquaintance of yours, you take up his cause, Godfrey, rather warmly."
My gifted friend made her one of the most truly evangelical answers I ever heard in my life.
"I hope, Rachel, I take up the cause of all oppressed people rather warmly," he said.
The tone in which those words were spoken might have melted a stone. But, oh dear, what is the hardness of stone? Nothing, compared to the hardness of the unregenerate human heart! She sneered. I blush to record it - she sneered at him to his face.