Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneFirst Period Chapters 7 8 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | First Period, Chapters 7–8 : The Loss of the Diamond (1848) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7

Back in his room, Gabriel Betteredge is once more approached by Penelope Betteredge, who asks what transpired at the Shivering Sand between Rosanna Spearman and Franklin Blake. After detailing her odd behavior, Penelope concludes Rosanna must be in love with Blake.

Near midnight Betteredge proceeds on his rounds, locking up the house. He notices a shadow near the corner of the house. He fetches Samuel, and they find a small bottle holding what looks like black ink in the same spot where he noticed the shadow earlier. He believes he interrupted the three Indians from earlier that day, and he is certain they were attempting to ascertain the location of the Moonstone.

Chapter 8

The next morning Betteredge shows Blake the bottle he found outside. Blake agrees it probably came from the Indians and that it was used to induce some sort of clairvoyant state. The Indians do not attempt any further visits to the house, though they are still in town.

To pass the time until Rachel Verinder's birthday, Rachel and Blake paint the door to her sitting room. As time wears on, the servants begin to gossip about the possibility of an engagement between Rachel and Franklin Blake. Betteredge disagrees, believing Rachel will make a better match with Godfrey Ablewhite. Ablewhite is a lawyer, wealthy, respectable, handsome, and active in several women's charities. He also describes Rachel as petite, dark, and attractive, but she has one significant defect to his mind: her independence.

Blake continues his wooing of Rachel. He even gives up smoking because he knows she hates the habit. During this time Rosanna Spearman's behavior becomes more erratic.

Analysis

There are a number of details offered in these chapters that seem dull or unimportant, but in a detective story—which The Moonstone is—there is never a useless detail. A throw-away reference to Franklin Blake quitting smoking because Rachel Verinder hates the habit becomes a key piece of the puzzle later on in the narrative. The details of the painting of the door to Rachel's room seem unnecessary but become important in later chapters. Gabriel Betteredge's story of Rachel as a child refusing to tattle on a playmate seems a simple remark on their history together and indicates his knowledge of her character, but it takes on deeper significance when the mystery of who took the Moonstone is finally resolved. Wilkie Collins has sown his clues throughout these chapters, and they bear fruit later in the novel.

The Indians make another appearance. Betteredge sees one of them hiding near the corner of the house and finds a vial of black liquid on the ground nearby: another reference to opium. In addition, the Indians' appearance at night increases the tension in what was a relatively quiet series of chapters. Collins is also setting up the Indians as his "red herrings" for the theft of the Moonstone, a common occurrence in a detective novel. These are false leads that almost always lead to the suspect in question being cleared of wrongdoing.

These chapters also introduce Godfrey Ablewhite and the romance element between Blake and Rachel. Betteredge's narration here is meant to be questioned: he speaks of Ablewhite in glowing terms, but readers have already seen him taken in by appearances before. He dismissed Penelope Betteredge's concerns that the three Indians in town were pursuing Blake. His opinion of Ablewhite is likewise suspect. He compares Blake unfavorably to Ablewhite, and says that he expects Ablewhite and Rachel will become engaged.

Penelope, as Rachel's maid, would seem to have greater insight into Rachel's moods and mind, but Betteredge still comes to the wrong conclusion, refusing to listen to his daughter. Penelope emerges as a reliable narrative authority in these instances. The same holds true when Penelope tells him Rosanna Spearman is acting strangely because she's fallen in love with Blake, something Betteredge dismisses. Betteredge proves himself to be an unreliable narrator; Penelope steps in as the voice readers are supposed to believe.

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