Page:The Moonstone.djvu/107

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riously sudden, headlong way. I said, Yes, it was, and wondered what was coming next. Upon my honor, Betteredge, I think she must be wrong in the head! She said, 'They will never find the Diamond, sir, will they? No! nor the person who took it—I'll answer for that.' She actually nodded and smiled at me! Before I could ask her what she meant we heard your step outside. I suppose she was afraid of your catching her here. At any rate, she changed color, and left the room. What on earth does it mean?"

I could not bring myself to tell him the girl's story even then. It would have been almost as good as telling him that she was the thief. Besides, even if I had made a clean breast of it, and even supposing she was the thief, the reason why she should let out her secret to Mr. Franklin, of all the people in the world, would have been still as far to seek as ever.

"I can't bear the idea of getting the poor girl into a scrape, merely because she has a flighty way with her, and talks very strangely," Mr. Franklin went on. "And yet if she had said to the Superintendent what she said to me, fool as he is, I'm afraid—" He stopped there, and left the rest unspoken.

"The best way, sir," I said, "will be for me to say two words privately to my mistress about it at the first opportunity. My lady has a very friendly interest in Rosanna; and the girl may only have been forward and foolish, after all. When there's a mess of any kind in a house, sir, the women-servants like to look at the gloomy side—it gives the poor wretches a kind of importance in their own eyes. If there's any body ill, trust the women for prophesying that the person will die. If it's a jewel lost, trust them for prophesying that it will never be found again."

This view (which I am bound to say I thought a probable view myself on reflection) seemed to relieve Mr. Franklin mightily; he folded up his telegram and dismissed the subject. On my way to the stables to order the pony-chaise I looked in at the servants' hall where they were at dinner. Rosanna Spearman was not among them. On inquiry I found that she had been suddenly taken ill, and had gone up stairs to her own room to lie down.

"Curious! She looked well enough when I saw her last," I remarked.

Penelope followed me out. "Don't talk in that way before the rest of them, father," she said. "You only make them harder on Rosanna than ever. The poor thing is breaking her heart about Mr. Franklin Blake."