FIRST PERIOD: THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)
21. CHAPTER XXI
There my mistress stopped him once more.
"I may possibly make it less painful to you, and to my good servant
and friend here," she said, "if I set the example of speaking boldly,
on my side. You suspect Miss Verinder of deceiving us all, by secreting
the Diamond for some purpose of her own? Is that true?"
"Quite true, my lady."
"Very well. Now, before you begin, I have to tell you,
as Miss Verinder's mother, that she is ABSOLUTELY
INCAPABLE of doing what you suppose her to have done.
Your knowledge of her character dates from a day or two since.
My knowledge of her character dates from the beginning of her life.
State your suspicion of her as strongly as you please--
it is impossible that you can offend me by doing so.
I am sure, beforehand, that (with all your experience)
the circumstances have fatally misled you in this case. Mind! I am
in possession of no private information. I am as absolutely
shut out of my daughter's confidence as you are. My one reason
for speaking positively, is the reason you have heard already.
I know my child."
She turned to me, and gave me her hand. I kissed it in silence.
"You may go on," she said, facing the Sergeant again as steadily
Sergeant Cuff bowed. My mistress had produced but one effect on him.
His hatchet-face softened for a moment, as if he was sorry for her.
As to shaking him in his own conviction, it was plain to see that she
had not moved him by a single inch. He settled himself in his chair;
and he began his vile attack on Miss Rachel's character in these words:
"I must ask your ladyship," he said, "to look this matter
in the face, from my point of view as well as from yours.
Will you please to suppose yourself coming down here, in my place,
and with my experience? and will you allow me to mention very
briefly what that experience has been?"
My mistress signed to him that she would do this. The Sergeant went on: