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The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



The Moonstone opens with a letter detailing the circumstances of John Herncastle's theft of the yellow Diamond during the siege of Seringapatam, a historic battle in Britain's colonization of India. Herncastle returns to England with the stone.

First Period

Gabriel Betteredge, the steward to Lady Verinder, takes up the tale nearly 50 years later. Lady Verinder's daughter Rachel's 18th birthday draws near. Three Indians are seen in Yorkshire and again at Lady Verinder's, searching for something of great importance. At around the same time, Franklin Blake, Rachel's cousin and Lady Verinder's nephew, arrives with the Moonstone. Herncastle left his niece, Rachel, the Diamond in his will.

Betteredge tells Blake that Herncastle was shunned by the rest of his family since his return from India. While Blake speaks with Betteredge, he catches the attention of Rosanna Spearman, a maid in Lady Verinder's household and former thief. Rosanna falls in love with Blake.

Blake and Rachel spend the days leading up to her birthday painting the door of her sitting room. As they grow closer, Blake gives up his smoking habit because Rachel hates it, and he begins to have trouble sleeping. On Rachel's birthday Blake gives her the Moonstone. Godfrey Ablewhite, Rachel's cousin and possible suitor, arrives for the party. He takes Rachel aside and proposes, but she refuses.

As more guests arrive, the mood of the evening changes, turning the dinner awkward and strange. Blake gets into an argument with Mr. Candy, a local doctor, about the benefits of medication. During the party the three Indians appear, pretending to be jugglers, but Mr. Murthwaite's knowledge of their culture and language scares them away. He tells Betteredge and Blake they are probably Brahmins, high-caste priests, charged with retrieving the Moonstone. Blake and the others are worried for Rachel's safety, but she decides to keep the Diamond in the unlocked cabinet in her room.

Everyone awakens to find the Moonstone stolen. Rachel refuses to speak to Superintendent Seegrave. Blake wires to London for better help and gets Sergeant Cuff, a well-respected detective. Cuff immediately finds a clue in the smeared paint on Rachel's door. Using it, he estimates when the crime took place. When Rachel refuses Cuff's search of the house, he abandons the plan, concluding Rachel stole the Diamond herself.

Rosanna Spearman is also acting strangely, following Blake and keeping to her room. Cuff orders the household to tell him when Rosanna leaves so he can follow her. Both he and Betteredge track her to Cobb's Hole and the Yolland house. During her last visit there, she purchased a tin box and some chain and wrote a letter. Cuff theorizes Rosanna plans to hide something in the quicksand. He also discovers Rosanna is planning to leave the Verinders soon.

Rachel leaves to stay with her aunt and the other Ablewhites in Frizinghall. The same day she leaves, Rosanna Spearman vanishes. Cuff and Betteredge look for her, only to realize she threw herself into the quicksand, killing herself.

Lady Verinder dismisses Cuff. Before he leaves, Cuff states three predictions to Betteredge: he will hear from the Yollands about Rosanna's letter, he will hear of the Indians again, and he will hear of Septimus Luker, a moneylender in London.

Blake leaves to travel to Europe, while Rachel and Lady Verinder leave for London. Later, Lucy Yolland visits Betteredge with a letter for Blake that she is to give to him alone. A few days later Betteredge receives an article from Sergeant Cuff about Septimus Luker and his troubles with three Indians.

Second Period

Miss Clack, Lady Verinder's niece, a self-righteous Christian and member of a charity Godfrey Ablewhite supports, begins her narrative. She discovers Ablewhite was attacked by Indians. Septimus Luker was similarly attacked, and a bank receipt was taken from him. Lady Verinder tells Clack of her heart condition and is asked to witness her will.

Mr. Bruff, the Verinder family attorney, and Miss Clack meet at Lady Verinder's and talk about who might have taken the Moonstone. Bruff believes Ablewhite is the most likely suspect, while Miss Clack thinks Blake is a better fit for the crime. A few days later Ablewhite proposes to Rachel once more, while Miss Clack eavesdrops. This time she accepts his proposal. Lady Verinder dies from her illness.

Rachel moves to Brighton. While there, Mr. Bruff brings her news that causes her to break her engagement to Ablewhite. He discovered that Ablewhite hired attorneys to take a look at the will, which is written in such a way as to keep fortune hunters at bay. Bruff became suspicious and told Rachel.

Later, Bruff is visited by an Indian man seeking to borrow money. Bruff refuses but tells the man had he lent him the money, he would be allowed one year for repayment on the loan. When Bruff speaks to Murthwaite about his visitor, the two men conclude the Indians are still after the Moonstone and will try to secure it when it is removed from the bank after the year is up.

Franklin Blake returns from abroad because his father has died and left him his legacy. Once back in England, Blake decides to find the Moonstone. Returning to the Verinder house, he sees Betteredge, who tells him of Rosanna's letter. They visit the Yollands the next morning. The letter directs him to go to the quicksand to find the chain and box. Opening the box, Blake finds the paint-stained nightgown and another letter from Rosanna. The nightgown is his, but Blake has no memory of taking the Moonstone.

Blake is upset, and he decides to bring everything to Mr. Bruff. Bruff tells him it is time he speak to Rachel about what happened the night the Diamond went missing.

Rachel and Blake meet. She reveals she saw him take the Moonstone and was enraged when he pretended to know nothing of it. She thinks of him as a liar and a fraud. Blake tries to engage Sergeant Cuff now that Cuff has retired from the police, but the man is not at home. Blake then returns to Yorkshire to speak with Mr. Candy.

Mr. Candy had taken ill after driving home in the rain from Rachel's birthday party and never recovered from his illness. When Blake goes to speak with Mr. Candy, he finds the man unable to remember what it was he wanted to tell Blake. As Blake leaves, he meets Mr. Candy's assistant, Ezra Jennings. Jennings has been taking notes of Mr. Candy's ramblings and tells him Mr. Candy dosed Blake with laudanum to help him sleep. Jennings recommends they re-create the events of that night to see what might have happened to the Moonstone. Blake agrees.

Ezra Jennings's journal entries detail the events of the re-creation of the night the Moonstone went missing. Blake quits smoking again and Betteredge does his best to make the Verinder house look exactly as it did on the night of the party. Jennings tells Rachel of the experiment, and she tells him she is coming to watch it, hoping to see Blake's name cleared. On the night of the experiment, Blake is given the laudanum and sent to bed after discussing the Moonstone and the threat it represents to Rachel. After midnight he leaves his room, talking to himself about keeping Rachel and the Diamond safe, goes into Rachel's room, and takes the stone from the cabinet. He falls asleep on the couch before he can do anything with it.

Rachel and Blake reconcile. Unfortunately, they still have no idea how the Moonstone got into Septimus Luker's possession. Mr. Bruff determines their best bet is to watch the bank and wait to see who retrieves the Moonstone when the year is up.

Mr. Bruff places men to watch the bank, including a young boy nicknamed Gooseberry. As Mr. Luker exits the bank, they see him pass a man in a suit. Blake and Bruff follow him, while Gooseberry follows after a sailor. The man in the suit has no idea what happened to the Moonstone, so Blake returns home to a note from Gooseberry saying he'll come see him in the morning.

The next morning, Sergeant Cuff visits Blake. Gooseberry arrives and leads them to an inn where he saw the sailor rent a room. Gooseberry tells them a mechanic also followed the sailor inside and tried to get into his room before he was thrown out. Blake and Cuff discover the sailor is still in his room. They break down the door to find the sailor lying dead on the bed. Cuff removes the man's disguise to discover the sailor was actually Godfrey Ablewhite. The Moonstone is gone.

Sergeant Cuff sends reports to Blake, filling in the gaps of the narrative. Ablewhite had used the Moonstone as collateral for a loan from Septimus Luker. The Indians had tracked Ablewhite, in disguise, to the inn, smothered him with a pillow, and took the Diamond. Ablewhite had to replace money he'd embezzled from a minor's trust he'd been overseeing. The young man would be 18 soon, and Ablewhite was running out of time. He proposed to Rachel before he discovered Lady Verinder's will made sure he wouldn't get any of her money. When he saw Blake in his laudanum haze, he took the Diamond from him.

Blake gets a letter from Mr. Candy telling him of Ezra Jennings's death and offering congratulations on his upcoming wedding to Rachel.


Mr. Murthwaite writes from India to inform Blake he watched a ceremony where he saw the Moonstone placed back in the forehead of the moon-god statue where it belongs.

The Moonstone Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 The Moonstone is stolen by Rachel Verinder's uncle.

Rising Action

2 Franklin Blake gives the Diamond to Rachel Verinder on her birthday.

3 The gem is stolen on the night of Rachel's birthday.

4 Sergeant Cuff investigates the theft.

5 The investigation stalls when Rachel refuses to cooperate.

6 Blake returns to England and reopens the investigation.

7 Rachel reveals she saw Blake take the Diamond.

8 Blake and Ezra Jennings re-create the events of the theft.


9 Godfrey Ablewhite is found dead and proved to be the thief.

Falling Action

10 Sergeant Cuff uncovers Ablewhite's double life.

11 The Indians and the Moonstone are tracked back to India.


12 A friend of the Verinder family sees the Diamond returned to the idol in India.

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