FIRST PERIOD: THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
20. CHAPTER XX
Those in front had spread the news before us. We found the servants
in a state of panic. As we passed my lady's door, it was thrown
open violently from the inner side. My mistress came out among us
(with Mr. Franklin following, and trying vainly to compose her), quite
beside herself with the horror of the thing.
"You are answerable for this!" she cried out, threatening the Sergeant
wildly with her hand. "Gabriel! give that wretch his money--and release
me from the sight of him!"
The Sergeant was the only one among us who was fit to cope with her--
being the only one among us who was in possession of himself.
"I am no more answerable for this distressing calamity, my lady,
than you are," he said. "If, in half an hour from this,
you still insist on my leaving the house, I will accept your
ladyship's dismissal, but not your ladyship's money."
It was spoken very respectfully, but very firmly at the same time--
and it had its effect on my mistress as well as on me.
She suffered Mr. Franklin to lead her back into the room.
As the door closed on the two, the Sergeant, looking about among
the women-servants in his observant way, noticed that while
all the rest were merely frightened, Penelope was in tears.
"When your father has changed his wet clothes," he said to her,
"come and speak to us, in your father's room."
Before the half-hour was out, I had got my dry clothes on,
and had lent Sergeant Cuff such change of dress as he required.
Penelope came in to us to hear what the Sergeant wanted with her.
I don't think I ever felt what a good dutiful daughter I had,
so strongly as I felt it at that moment. I took her and sat
her on my knee and I prayed God bless her. She hid her head
on my bosom, and put her arms round my neck--and we waited
a little while in silence. The poor dead girl must have been
at the bottom of it, I think, with my daughter and with me.
The Sergeant went to the window, and stood there looking out.
I thought it right to thank him for considering us both in this way--
and I did.