FIRST PERIOD: THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
3. CHAPTER III
The question of how I am to start the story properly I have
tried to settle in two ways. First, by scratching my head,
which led to nothing. Second, by consulting my daughter Penelope,
which has resulted in an entirely new idea.
Penelope's notion is that I should set down what happened,
regularly day by day, beginning with the day when we got the news
that Mr. Franklin Blake was expected on a visit to the house.
When you come to fix your memory with a date in this way, it is
wonderful what your memory will pick up for you upon that compulsion.
The only difficulty is to fetch out the dates, in the first place.
This Penelope offers to do for me by looking into her own diary,
which she was taught to keep when she was at school, and which she has
gone on keeping ever since. In answer to an improvement on this notion,
devised by myself, namely, that she should tell the story instead
of me, out of her own diary, Penelope observes, with a fierce
look and a red face, that her journal is for her own private eye,
and that no living creature shall ever know what is in it but herself.
When I inquire what this means, Penelope says, "Fiddlesticks!"
I say, Sweethearts.
Beginning, then, on Penelope's plan, I beg to mention that I
was specially called one Wednesday morning into my lady's
own sitting-room, the date being the twenty-fourth of May,
Eighteen hundred and forty-eight.
"Gabriel," says my lady, "here is news that will surprise you.
Franklin Blake has come back from abroad. He has been staying
with his father in London, and he is coming to us to-morrow
to stop till next month, and keep Rachel's birthday."
If I had had a hat in my hand, nothing but respect would have prevented me
from throwing that hat up to the ceiling. I had not seen Mr. Franklin since
he was a boy, living along with us in this house. He was, out of all sight
(as I remember him), the nicest boy that ever spun a top or broke a window.
Miss Rachel, who was present, and to whom I made that remark, observed,
in return, that SHE remembered him as the most atrocious tyrant that ever
tortured a doll, and the hardest driver of an exhausted little girl
in string harness that England could produce. "I burn with indignation,
and I ache with fatigue," was the way Miss Rachel summed it up, "when I think
of Franklin Blake."