Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneSecond Period First Narrative Chapters 3 4 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | Second Period, First Narrative, Chapters 3–4 : The Discovery of the Truth (1848–1849) | Summary

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Summary

First Narrative, Chapter 3

Lady Julia Verinder confides to Miss Drusilla Clack that she has been seriously ill for some time and has, at most, only a few months to live. She doesn't want Rachel Verinder to know of her heart condition. Miss Clack is immediately excited for the opportunity to save her aunt's soul from damnation and resolves to convert her before her death.

Miss Clack hurries home to fetch various religious reading materials, returning to Lady Verinder's in the afternoon for the witnessing of the will. She waits with Mr. Mathew Bruff while Lady Verinder is examined by her doctor. Bruff asks after Godfrey Ablewhite, mentioning the gossip associated with his attack. Miss Clack defends him.

Bruff argues the case against him. Ablewhite was a guest at the house the night the Moonstone went missing, he was the first to arrive in London after the stone was taken, and the Indians targeted both Ablewhite and Septimus Luker, who presumably has the Diamond. He posits there is more going on that ties the two men together than a simple accidental meeting at the bank.

Miss Clack again defends Ablewhite to Bruff, finally telling him that Miss Rachel herself said Ablewhite was innocent of the theft. She says Franklin Blake was also a guest at Lady Verinder's the night the Diamond disappeared and that he has a number of debts. Bruff explains that Blake's creditors are happy to wait and charge the interest on the debt as they await repayment, and that he was all but engaged to Rachel, which would have brought him the Diamond legally. He had no need to steal it.

Before they can debate further, a servant tells them the doctor has left. Lady Verinder waits for them.

First Narrative, Chapter 4

The will is signed quickly, with Miss Clack and Samuel, the footman, as witnesses. Bruff leaves. Lady Verinder mentions to Miss Clack that she plans to give something to her personally. Clack offers some of the Christian books she brought, but Lady Verinder begs off. Clack deposits her books throughout the house before returning to her own home, satisfied with her work.

The following day Samuel drops off a parcel at Miss Clack's. When she asks after her aunt, Samuel tells her she is out with Rachel and Ablewhite. He continues that Rachel and Ablewhite are to go to a concert and then a ball later that evening. Clack is surprised Ablewhite would spend so much time with Rachel and neglect his charity work.

She opens the parcel to find all her books returned. Miss Clack decides her next move will be to flood the woman with letters filled with passages from several of her books. She sends some that day and keeps more to send at a later date.

She goes to check on Lady Verinder later that afternoon but is informed her aunt is resting. Miss Clack waits in the library, distributing more letters about the house. While in the drawing room, she hears someone enter the house, so she hides behind a curtain at the back of the room. The visitor is Godfrey Ablewhite.

Analysis

The satire of Miss Drusilla Clack continues. Her distribution of her Christian tracts and books in Chapter 4 is used to hilarious effect. She flings a tract at a horrified cab driver; she hides books about Lady Julia Verinder's house, only to have them all returned to her; she squirrels letters away in the rooms Lady Verinder might frequent. Readers are meant to laugh at this character and her rather pushy behavior.

Drusilla Clack's hypocrisy is also on display here. When she finds out her aunt is dying, her response is far from the compassionate Christian one that might be expected from a woman of her religious leanings. Instead she is excited to be of use, a selfish motivation. She immediately bombards a dying woman with information about something of no interest. While Miss Clack insists her drive is to save Lady Verinder's soul, something more self-aggrandizing spurs her. Her selfishness in this situation is appalling, as are her lack of boundaries in service to what she deems the greater good.

With Sergeant Cuff gone, several other "amateur detectives" take his place in the narrative. Franklin Blake is one, having commissioned the narratives. Miss Clack herself mentions that she thinks Rachel Verinder "is keeping a sinful secret from you and from everyone" and wants to find out what it is. She and Mr. Mathew Bruff, the Verinder family lawyer, engage in a debate in Chapter 3 over whether or not Godfrey Ablewhite could have stolen the Moonstone. Bruff plays the prosecution, while Miss Clack takes the role of the impassioned defense, offering up Blake as a much more likely thief. Debt is again mentioned as a possible motive, this time in association with Blake.

Betteredge's and Miss Clack's narratives have one thing in common: their reliance on books for comfort and support. Betteredge treats Robinson Crusoe as his own personal bible, while Miss Clack relies on her Christian pamphlets and books for solace. When they themselves haven't the words to express their thoughts, they turn to their books. The Moonstone itself functions as a kind of nested narrative: it contains multiple stories, which, in turn, contain letters, reports, articles, and journal entries. Each one conspires to give a more complete view of the story.

Finally, the idea of the Moonstone's curse reappears. Whether or not the Diamond is actually cursed doesn't matter—possession of the gem certainly sows unhappiness. John Herncastle was snubbed by his entire family until his death, Rosanna Spearman committed suicide, Rachel and Blake are at odds, and now Lady Julia Verinder is dying. While none of these events is supernatural in nature, a definite pall is cast across these characters' lives.

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