FIRST PERIOD: THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
14. CHAPTER XIV
The nearest way to the garden, on going out of my lady's sitting-room,
was by the shrubbery path, which you already know of. For the sake
of your better understanding of what is now to come, I may add to this,
that the shrubbery path was Mr. Franklin's favourite walk. When he was
out in the grounds, and when we failed to find him anywhere else,
we generally found him here.
I am afraid I must own that I am rather an obstinate old man.
The more firmly Sergeant Cuff kept his thoughts shut up from me,
the more firmly I persisted in trying to look in at them.
As we turned into the shrubbery path, I attempted to circumvent
him in another way.
"As things are now," I said, "if I was in your place, I should be at
my wits' end."
"If you were in my place," answered the Sergeant, "you would have formed
an opinion--and, as things are now, any doubt you might previously
have felt about your own conclusions would be completely set at rest.
Never mind for the present what those conclusions are, Mr. Betteredge.
I haven't brought you out here to draw me like a badger; I have brought you
out here to ask for some information. You might have given it to me no doubt,
in the house, instead of out of it. But doors and listeners have a knack
of getting together; and, in my line of life, we cultivate a healthy taste
for the open air."
Who was to circumvent THIS man? I gave in--and waited as patiently
as I could to hear what was coming next.
"We won't enter into your young lady's motives," the Sergeant went on;
"we will only say it's a pity she declines to assist me, because,
by so doing, she makes this investigation more difficult than it
might otherwise have been. We must now try to solve the mystery
of the smear on the door--which, you may take my word for it,
means the mystery of the Diamond also--in some other way.
I have decided to see the servants, and to search their thoughts
and actions, Mr. Betteredge, instead of searching their wardrobes.
Before I begin, however, I want to ask you a question or two.
You are an observant man--did you notice anything strange in any of
the servants (making due allowance, of course, for fright and fluster),
after the loss of the Diamond was found out? Any particular quarrel
among them? Any one of them not in his or her usual spirits?
Unexpectedly out of temper, for instance? or unexpectedly