Eighth Narrative: Chapter I
Contributed by GABRIEL BETTEREDGE
I am the person (as you remember no doubt) who led the way in these pages, and opened the story. I am also the person who is left behind, as it were, to close the story up.
Let nobody suppose that I have any last words to say here concerning the Indian Diamond. I hold that unlucky jewel in abhorrence--and I refer you to other authority than mine, for such news of the Moonstone as you may, at the present time, be expected to receive. My purpose, in this place, is to state a fact in the history of the family, which has been passed over by everybody, and which I won't allow to be disrespectfully smothered up in that way. The fact to which I allude is-- the marriage of Miss Rachel and Mr. Franklin Blake. This interesting event took place at our house in Yorkshire, on Tuesday, October ninth, eighteen hundred and forty-nine. I had a new suit of clothes on the occasion. And the married couple went to spend the honeymoon in Scotland.
Family festivals having been rare enough at our house, since my poor mistress's death, I own--on this occasion of the wedding--to having
(towards the latter part of the day) taken a drop too much on the strength of it.
If you have ever done the same sort of thing yourself you will understand and feel for me. If you have not, you will very likely say, "Disgusting old man! why does he tell us this?" The reason why is now to come.
Having, then, taken my drop (bless you! you have got your favourite vice, too; only your vice isn't mine, and mine isn't yours), I next applied the one infallible remedy--that remedy being, as you know, ROBINSON CRUSOE. Where I opened that unrivalled book, I can't say. Where the lines of print at last left off running into each other, I know, however, perfectly well. It was at page three hundred and eighteen--a domestic bit concerning Robinson Crusoe's marriage, as follows:
"With those Thoughts, I considered my new Engagement, that I had a Wife "--(Observe! so had Mr. Franklin!)--"one Child born"--(Observe again! that might yet be Mr. Franklin's case, too!)--"and my Wife then"--What Robinson Crusoe's wife did, or did not do, "then," I felt no desire to discover. I scored the bit about the Child with my pencil, and put a morsel of paper for a mark to keep the place; "Lie you there," I said, "till the marriage of Mr. Franklin and Miss Rachel is some months older--and then we'll see!"
The months passed (more than I had bargained for), and no occasion presented itself for disturbing that mark in the book. It was not till this present month of November, eighteen hundred and fifty, that Mr. Franklin came into my room, in high good spirits, and said, "Betteredge! I have got some news for you! Something is going to happen in the house, before we are many months older."
"Does it concern the family, sir?" I asked.
"It decidedly concerns the family," says Mr. Franklin. "Has your good lady anything to do with it, if you please, sir?"
"She has a great deal to do with it," says Mr. Franklin, beginning to look a little surprised.
"You needn't say a word more, sir," I answered. "God bless you both! I'm heartily glad to hear it."
Mr. Franklin stared like a person thunderstruck. "May I venture to inquire where you got your information?" he asked. "I only got mine (imparted in the strictest secrecy) five minutes since."
Here was an opportunity of producing ROBINSON CRUSOE! Here was a chance of reading that domestic bit about the child which I had marked on the day of Mr. Franklin's marriage! I read those miraculous words with an emphasis which did them justice, and then I looked him severely in the face. "NOW, sir, do you believe in ROBINSON CRUSOE?" I asked, with a solemnity, suitable to the occasion.
"Betteredge!" says Mr. Franklin, with equal solemnity, "I'm convinced at last." He shook hands with me--and I felt that I had converted him.
With the relation of this extraordinary circumstance, my reappearance in these pages comes to an end. Let nobody laugh at the unique anecdote here related. You are welcome to be as merry as you please over everything else I have written. But when I write of ROBINSON CRUSOE, by the Lord it's serious-- and I request you to take it accordingly!
When this is said, all is said. Ladies and gentlemen, I make my bow, and shut up the story.Next