Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneFirst Period Chapters 15 16 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | First Period, Chapters 15–16 : The Loss of the Diamond (1848) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 15

While they walk, Sergeant Cuff guesses Rosanna Spearman realized she'd gotten paint on her gown and went to Frizinghall to buy supplies to make a new one. She did so at night, thus explaining the fire in her room. Cuff tells Gabriel Betteredge he followed Rosanna to a house in the nearby village of Cobb's Hole.

Betteredge leads Cuff to Cobb's Hole. They stop at Yolland's house; Rosanna is friends with Limping Lucy Yolland, the Yollands' daughter. Cuff speaks with Mrs. Yolland, acting sympathetic to Rosanna's plight. Mrs. Yolland tells him Rosanna just came by and told them she plans to leave her job at Lady Julia Verinder's house. While there, Rosanna used Lucy's room to write a letter and bought a waterproof tin case and two chains from Mrs. Yolland.

Cuff thinks Rosanna has used the tin box and chains to hide something and then sink it beneath the water or quicksand. He believes it to be the paint-stained dress, but he doesn't understand why she hasn't just destroyed the evidence.

Chapter 16

Rachel Verinder plans to stay with Mrs. Merridew, who is her aunt, Mrs. Ablewhite, and Godfrey Ablewhite's mother at Frizinghall. Cuff requests Lady Verinder delay Rachel's departure until after 2:00 p.m. the next day to give him time to go to Frizinghall in the morning.

Betteredge finally admits there is something wrong with Rachel. Cuff thinks Rachel has stolen her own Diamond and that Rosanna Spearman is working with her.

Analysis

Sergeant Cuff's ability to work around the social constraints of this period pays off with Mrs. Yolland in Chapter 15. While Gabriel Betteredge is rather horrified by the woman and her home, Cuff uses her hospitality and his empathy to get her to reveal what Rosanna Spearman was doing there. Where Betteredge is too conventional in his class bias, Cuff is not. Betteredge occupies a liminal place, much like Mr. Murthwaite. He is a servant, and yet, not. He enjoys a closeness with Lady Julia Verinder that no other servant does, but he is not nobility. Betteredge straddles the worlds of both servants and lords, thus allowing access to both for the sake of the narrative.

In Chapter 15 Cuff uses surveillance, physical clues, and a stake-out to aid in his investigation. These are all tropes used in detective novels that followed this one. Wilkie Collins is providing the conventions of the genre.

Rosanna is still the character under the most suspicion. Even Cuff believes she was involved, but only as a go-between for Rachel Verinder. Cuff is still sympathetic to her, intimating that Rachel is somehow forcing her into this situation. This brings up Rosanna's haunted past again. She can never get away from her past as a thief: first Cuff recognizes her from her stay in the reformatory, and now Rachel could be using it to help divest herself of the stolen Diamond. While it is obvious she is hiding something, only Franklin Blake believes she is guilty of taking the Moonstone, though he is motivated by his need to clear Rachel of suspicion.

Collins drives home this idea of collusion by causing Rosanna's return to coincide with Rachel's request for departure. Cuff predicted such a thing, another trope common to detective stories, but Betteredge is holding the social line, refusing to believe Rachel would be in cahoots with Rosanna. Such behavior would be a startling departure from her station.

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