NTC/Contemporary Publishing CompanyCopyright © 1997 Wilkie Collins
All right reserved.ISBN: 1853260444
First Period the loss of the diamond (1848) The Events related by GabrielBetteredge, House-Steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder
In the first part of Robinson Crusoe, at page onehundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written:
“Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we countthe Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through withit.”
Only yesterday, I opened my Robinson Crusoe at that place. Only this morning(May twenty-first, Eighteen hundred and fifty), came my lady’s nephew, Mr.Franklin Blake, and held a short conversation with me, as follows:—
“Betteredge,” says Mr. Franklin, “I have been to thelawyer’s about some family matters; and, among other things, we have beentalking of the loss of the Indian Diamond, in my aunt’s house inYorkshire, two years since. Mr. Bruff thinks, as I think, that the whole storyought, in the interests of truth, to be placed on record in writing—andthe sooner the better.”
Not perceiving his drift yet, and thinking it always desirable for the sake ofpeace and quietness to be on the lawyer’s side, I said I thought so too.Mr. Franklin went on.
“In this matter of the Diamond,” he said, “the characters ofinnocent people have suffered under suspicion already—as you know. Thememories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter, for want of a record of thefacts to which those who come after us can appeal. There can be no doubt thatthis strange family story of ours ought to be told. And I think, Betteredge, Mr.Bruff and I together have hit on the right way of telling it.”
Very satisfactory to both of them, no doubt. But I failed to see what I myselfhad to do with it, so far.
“We have certain events to relate,” Mr. Franklin proceeded;“and we have certain persons concerned in those events who are capable ofrelating them. Starting from these plain facts, the idea is that we should allwrite the story of the Moonstone in turn—as far as our own personalexperience extends, and no farther. We must begin by showing how the Diamondfirst fell into the hands of my uncle Herncastle, when he was serving in Indiafifty years since. This prefatory narrative I have already got by me in the formof an old family paper, which relates the necessary particulars on the authorityof an eye-witness. The next thing to do is to tell how the Diamond found its wayinto my aunt’s house in Yorkshire, two years ago, and how it came to belost in little more than twelve hours afterwards. Nobody knows as much as youdo, Betteredge, about what went on in the house at that time. So you must takethe pen in hand, and start the story.”
In those terms I was informed of what my personal concern was with the matter ofthe Diamond. If you are curious to know what course I took under thecircumstances, I beg to inform you that I did what you would probably have donein my place. I modestly declared myself to be quite unequal to the task imposedupon me—and I privately felt, all the time, that I was quite clever enoughto perform it, if I only gave my own abilities a fair chance. Mr. Franklin, Iimagine, must have seen my private sentiments in my face. He declined to believein my modesty; and he insisted on giving my abilities a fair chance.
Two hours have passed since Mr. Franklin left me. As soon as his back wasturned, I went to my writing-desk to start the story. There I have sat helpless(in spite of my abilities) ever since; seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, asquoted above—namely, the folly of beginning a work before we count thecost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it.Please to remember, I opened the book by accident, at that bit, only the daybefore I rashly undertook the business now in hand; and, allow me toask—if that isn’t prophecy, what is?
I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time; I am a scholarin my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess an active memory, and legs tocorrespond. You are not to take it, if you please, as the saying of an ignorantman, when I express my opinion that such a book as Robinson Crusoe never waswritten, and never will be written again. I have tried that book foryears—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and I havefound it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life. When myspirits are bad—Robinson Crusoe. When I want advice—Robinson Crusoe.In past times, when my wife plagued me; in present times, when I have had a droptoo much—Robinson Crusoe. I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes withhard work in my service. On my lady’s last birthday she gave me a seventh.I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe put me rightagain. Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into thebargain.
Still, this don’t look much like starting the story of theDiamond—does it? I seem to be wandering off in search of Lord knows what,Lord knows where. We will take a new sheet of paper, if you please, and beginover again, with my best respects to you.