(There was a mistress to serve! There was a woman in ten thousand, if you like!)

`That is the very point I was about to put to your ladyship,' said the Sergeant. `The other officer has done a world of harm to this inquiry, by letting the servants see that he suspected them. If I give them cause to think themselves suspected a second time, there's no knowing what obstacles they may not throw in my way--the women especially. At the same time, their boxes must be searched again--for this plain reason, that the first investigation only looked for the Diamond, and that the second investigation must look for the stained dress. I quite agree with you, my lady, that the servants' feelings ought to be consulted. But I am equally clear that the servants' wardrobes ought to be searched.'

This looked very like a deadlock. My lady said so, in choicer language than mine.

`I have got a plan to meet the difficulty,' said Sergeant Cuff, `if your ladyship will consent to it. I propose explaining the case to the servants.'

`The women will think themselves suspected directly,' I said, interrupting him.

`The women won't, Mr. Betteredge,' answered the Sergeant, `if I can tell them I am going to examine the wardrobes of everybody--from her ladyship downwards--who slept in the house on Wednesday night. It's a mere formality,' he added, with a side look at my mistress; `but the servants will accept it as even dealing between them and their betters; and, instead of hindering the investigation; they will make a point of honour of assisting it.'

I saw the truth of that. My lady, after her first surprise was over, saw the truth of it also.

`You are certain the investigation is necessary?' she said.

`It's the shortest way that I can see, my lady, to the end we have in view.'

My mistress rose to ring the bell for her maid. `You shall speak to the servants,' she said, `with the keys of my wardrobe in your hand.'

Sergeant Cuff stopped her by a very unexpected question.

`Hadn't we better make sure first,' he asked, `that the other ladies and gentlemen in the house will consent, too?'

`The only other lady in the house is Miss Verinder,' answered my mistress, with a look of surprise. `The only gentlemen are my nephews, Mr. Blake and Mr. Ablewhite. There is not the least fear of a refusal from any of the three.'

I reminded my lady here that Mr. Godfrey was going away. As I said the words, Mr. Godfrey himself knocked at the door to say good-bye, and was followed in by Mr. Franklin, who was going with him to the station. My lady explained the difficulty. Mr. Godfrey settled it directly. He called to Samuel, through the window, to take his portmanteau upstairs again, and he then put the key himself into Sergeant Cuff's hand. `My luggage can follow me to London,' he said, `when the inquiry is over.' The Sergeant received the key with a becoming apology. `I am sorry to put you to any inconvenience, sir, for a mere formality; but the example of their betters will do wonders in reconciling the servants to this inquiry.' Mr. Godfrey, after taking leave of my lady, in a most sympathizing manner, left a farewell message for Miss Rachel, the terms of which made it clear to my mind that he had not taken No for an answer, and that he meant to put the marriage question to her once more, at the next opportunity. Mr. Franklin, on following his cousin out, informed the Sergeant that all his clothes were open to examination, and that nothing he possessed was kept under lock and key. Sergeant Cuff made his best acknowledgments. His views, you will observe, had been met with the utmost readiness by my lady, by Mr. Godfrey, and by Mr. Franklin.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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