all her faults, had been, to my mind, the dearest and prettiest and best young mistress that ever an old servant waited on, and loved. I begged Sergeant Cuff's pardon, but I am afraid I did it with watery eyes, and not in a very becoming way.
`Don't distress yourself, Mr. Betteredge,' says the Sergeant, with more kindness than I had any right to expect from him. `In my line of life, if we were quick at taking offence, we shouldn't be worth salt to our porridge. If it's any comfort to you, collar me again. You don't in the least know how to do it; but I'll overlook your awkwardness in consideration of your feelings.'
He curled up at the corners of his lips, and, in his own dreary way, seemed to think he had delivered himself of a very good joke.
I led him into my own little sitting-room, and closed the door.
`Tell me the truth, Sergeant,' I said. `What do you suspect? It's no kindness to hide it from me now.'
`I don't suspect,' said Sergeant Cuff. `I know.'
My unlucky temper began to get the better of me again.
`Do you mean to tell me, in plain English,' I said, `that Miss Rachel has stolen her own Diamond?'
`Yes,' says the Sergeant; `that is what I mean to tell you, in so many words. Miss Verinder has been in secret possession of the Moonstone from first to last; and she has taken Rosanna Spearman into her confidence, because she has calculated on our suspecting Rosanna Spearman of the theft. There is the whole case in a nutshell. Collar me again, Mr. Betteredge. If it's any vent to your feelings, collar me again.'
God help me! my feelings were not to be relieved in that way.
`Give me your reasons!' That was all I could say to him.
`You shall hear my reasons to-morrow,' said the Sergeant. `If Miss Verinder refuses to put off her visit to her aunt (which you will find Miss Verinder will do), I shall be obliged to lay the whole case before your mistress to-morrow. And, as I don't know what may come of it, I shall request you to be present, and to hear what passes on both sides. Let the matter rest for to-night. No, Mr. Betteredge, you don't get a word more on the subject of the Moonstone out of me. There is your table spread for supper. That's one of the many human infirmities which I always treat tenderly. If you will ring the bell, I'll say grace. "For what we are going to receive --" '
`I wish you a good appetite to it, Sergeant,' I said. `My appetite is gone. I'll wait and see you served, and then I'll ask you to excuse me, if I go away, and try to get the better of this by myself.'
I saw him served with the best of everything -- and I shouldn't have been sorry if the best of everything had choked him. The head gardener (Mr. Begbie) came in at the same time, with his weekly account. The Sergeant got on the subject of roses and the merits of grass walks and gravel walks immediately. I left the two together, and went out with a heavy heart. This was the first trouble I remember for many a long year which wasn't to be blown off by a whiff of tobacco, and which was even beyond the reach of Robinson Crusoe.
Being restless and miserable, and having no particular room to go to, I took a turn on the terrace, and thought it over in peace and quietness by myself. It doesn't much matter what my thoughts were. I felt wretchedly old, and worn out, and unfit for my place -- and began to wonder, for the first time in my life, when it would please God to take me. With all this, I held firm, notwithstanding, to my belief in Miss Rachel. If Sergeant Cuff had been Solomon in all his glory, and had told me that my young lady had
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