Chapter 17

NOTHING happened in the night; and (I am happy to add) no attempt at communication between Miss Rachel and Rosanna rewarded the vigilance of Sergeant Cuff.

I had expected the Sergeant to set off for Frizinghall the first thing in the morning. He waited about, however, as if he had something else to do first. I left him to his own devices; and going into the grounds shortly after, met Mr. Franklin on his favourite walk by the shrubbery side.

Before we had exchanged two words, the Sergeant unexpectedly joined us. He made up to Mr. Franklin, who received him, I must own, haughtily enough. `Have you anything to say to me?' was all the return he got for politely wishing Mr. Franklin good morning.

`I have something to say to you, sir,' answered the Sergeant, `on the subject of the inquiry I am conducting here. You detected the turn that inquiry was really taking, yesterday. Naturally enough, in your position, you are shocked and distressed. Naturally enough, also, you visit your own angry sense of your own family scandal upon Me.'

`What do you want?' Mr. Franklin broke in, sharply enough.

I want to remind you, sir, that I have at any rate, thus far, not been proved to be wrong. Bearing that in mind, be pleased to remember, at the same time, that I am an officer of the law acting here under the sanction of the mistress of the house. Under these circumstances, is it, or is it not, your duty as a good citizen, to assist me with any special information which you may happen to possess?'

`I possess no special information,' says Mr. Franklin.

Sergeant Cuff put that answer by him, as if no answer had been made.

`You may save my time, sir, from being wasted on an inquiry at a distance,' he went on, `if you choose to understand me and speak out.'

`I don't understand you,' answered Mr. Franklin; `and I have nothing to say.'

`One of the female servants (I won't mention names) spoke to you privately, sir, last night.'

Once more Mr. Franklin cut him short; once more Mr. Franklin answered, `I have nothing to say.'

Standing by in silence, I thought of the movement in the swing-door on the previous evening, and of the coat-tails which I had seen disappearing down the passage. Sergeant Cuff had, no doubt, just heard enough, before I interrupted him, to make him suspect that Rosanna had relieved her mind by confessing something to Mr. Franklin Blake.

This notion had barely struck me -- when who should appear at the end of the shrubbery walk but Rosanna Spearman in her own proper person! She was followed by Penelope, who was evidently trying to make her retrace her steps to the house. Seeing that Mr. Franklin was not alone, Rosanna came to a standstill, evidently in great perplexity what to do next. Penelope waited behind her. Mr. Franklin saw the girls as soon as I saw them. The Sergeant, with his devilish cunning, took on not to have noticed them at all. All this happened in an instant. Before either Mr. Franklin or I could say a word, Sergeant Cuff struck in smoothly, with an appearance of continuing the previous conversation.

`You needn't be afraid of harming the girl, sir,' he said to Mr. Franklin, speaking in a loud voice, so that Rosanna might hear him. `On the contrary, I recommend you to honour me with your confidence, if you feel any interest in Rosanna Spearman.'

Mr. Franklin instantly took on not to have noticed the girls either. He answered, speaking loudly on his side:

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