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The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins

Second Period, First Narrative, Chapters I and II

First Period, Chapters XXII–XXIII

Second Period, First Narrative, Chapters III–V

Summary

Second Period, First Narrative, Chapter I

The Second Period, subtitled "The Discovery of the Truth: (1848–1849)," begins with the narrative of Miss Clack, Sir John Verinder's niece, and Rachel's cousin. Miss Clack, in her self-righteously pious tone, explains that she is currently living in Brittany and has received a letter from Franklin Blake asking her to relate the events Miss Clack witnessed while visiting with Rachel in London during the weeks after the diamond theft. Footnotes added by Franklin Blake assure us that Miss Clack's narrative stands unaltered. Miss Clack relates events accurately by consulting her diary.

Miss Clack first visited the Verinders shortly after they arrived in London, on Monday, July 3, 1848. Lady Verinder sends word through Penelope inviting Miss Clack for lunch the following day. Miss Clack leaves Christian pamphlets for the household.

Miss Clack proceeds to her Christian charity meeting. She hears from other charity members that Godfrey Ablewhite, their leader, and another gentleman, Septimus Luker, had been attacked the previous Friday. Godfrey and Mr. Luker accidentally met each other at the door of a bank on Friday, and both proceeded home. On arriving home, Godfrey had found a boy waiting for him with a note asking him to come to a house on Northumberland Street in one hour. At the Northumberland Street house, Godfrey is shown in. While he was busy looking at an Oriental manuscript on the table, he was grabbed from behind by a brown arm, bound, and gagged. He was searched and left in the apartment to be found by the landlady. She explained that the apartment had been let, through a respectable gentleman, to three Oriental noblemen.

Miss Clack also hears that later that Friday, Septimus Luker the moneylender was similarly attacked in a different building. The attackers took from Luker a receipt for "a valuable of great price" that Luker had just received. The authorities assumed that the Indians were after Luker's receipt and the attack on Godfrey was due only to his random association with Luker, when they met at the door of the bank.

Miss Clack arrives for lunch at the Verinders' the next day. She is shocked by Rachel's unrestrained manner and "feverish excitement," especially around the subject of the attack on Godfrey. After Rachel leaves the room, Lady Verinder explains the theft of the Indian Diamond to Clack and describes the doctor's orders to keep Rachel occupied and amused so she won't dwell on it. Miss Clack warns Lady Verinder that Rachel seems to be keeping a secret. Godfrey Ablewhite's arrival is announced.

Second Period, First Narrative, Chapter II

Miss Clack, with great admiration, describes Godfrey's perfect entrance and his perfect humility in describing the attack upon him. Rachel comes in and asks Godfrey to describe the attack and becomes suspicious when he is reticent. Miss Clack is disapproving of Rachel's forthrightness.

Rachel questions Godfrey about his relation to Septimus Luker. Godfrey insists he doesn't know him. Rachel questions Godfrey about Luker's receipt for a "valuable gem," but Godfrey doesn't know what the gem was. Rachel questions Godfrey about gossip around the incident, and Godfrey reluctantly admits that people are saying that Luker's gem is the Moonstone and that Godfrey himself pawned it to Luker. Rachel, though still suspicious that Godfrey knows more of Luker than he admits, is frantic and insists on clearing Godfrey's name. Rachel dramatically explains that she knows for a fact that Godfrey is innocent and offers to sign a paper saying so for Godfrey to show around town.

Meanwhile, Lady Verinder becomes faint and asks Miss Clack to quietly assist her with her medicine so that Rachel cannot see. Several women come to the door to take Rachel to the flower-show. After she leaves, Godfrey burns the paper Rachel had written clearing his name, not wanting Rachel exposed to gossip. Godfrey leaves.

Miss Clack questions Lady Verinder about her health, and Lady Verinder admits that her health is not good. Lady Verinder asks Clack to return that afternoon to witness Lady Verinder signing her will. Miss Clack realizes that Lady Verinder is dying and keeping it secret from everyone.

Analysis

The first narrative of the second period is narrated by Miss Drusilla Clack, who is merely peripheral to the Verinder household in London. As a result of this her narrative, like Betteredge's, is an incomplete rendering of the reactions and feelings of the Verinders (and most importantly, Rachel) in the weeks after the diamond theft. Though Miss Clack's narrative is spotty, we are reassured (by Collins) of its accuracy through a small beginning passage explaining how Miss Clack's parents taught her to be meticulous and tidy, especially in her diary. We were similarly reassured earlier of Betterdge's accuracy by reference to Penelope's diary in the First Period. Thus we see that Collins does not mean for us to doubt the reporting of dates and facts by any narrator, regardless of how their individual opinions inflect their reporting of other characters.

While we could perceive some distance between Betteredge as narrator and Collins as author (i.e. we were encouraged not to agree with everything that Betteredge believed), Miss Clack is blatantly satirized. Miss Clack is an exaggeration of a figure that Collins reviled, which is the hypocritically pious Christian woman. Miss Clack purports to be religious—more religious than all others—yet she uses the rhetoric of piety to make herself look good and to make certain others look worse. Thus Miss Clack describes her decision to write the narrative and accept Franklin's generous check thus: "It cost me a hard struggle, before Christian humility conquered sinful pride, and self-denial accepted the cheque." Here, and throughout her narrative, Miss Clack's false piety and false humility are laughable.

Franklin Blake occupies a much more prominent editorial role in the Second Period of The Moonstone. This presence works throughout Miss Clack's narrative effectively to undercut Miss Clack's authority as narrator. In Chapter I, we get a lengthy footnote from Franklin reassuring us that he will not cut out any part of Miss Clack's narrative, regardless of how disagreeable it is. We see in this footnote that his main concern is for Rachel ("the person chiefly concerned") as a frequent target of Miss Clack's animosity. Franklin goes on to encourage us to read Miss Clack's antipathy for Rachel not as a slur on Rachel, but as a reflexive indication of the type of Miss Clack's own character. Thus her entire narrative is demoted, in a sense, as we are alerted that we should read it, not for the truth of its opinions but as a testimony of the meanness of her own character.

As readers, we are meant to disagree with many of Miss Clack's character judgments, such as her disgust for Rachel or her veneration of Godfrey Ablewhite. Though we doubt these judgments as we doubted some of Betteredge's judgments (his insistence that Rachel would fall in love with Godfrey, for example) we are never meant to doubt the sincerity of the narrators or to doubt the fact that they themselves believe what they are saying. The end result of this technique is to drive home the point that truth is utterly subjective. Yet Collins ensures that our formation of our own, "correct" opinions about the characters that Betteredge and Clack describe is not disrupted by their personal opinions by rendering character through dialogue. Thus, while Rachel Verinder never authors her own narrative, we still feel like we know her (aside from Clack's and Betteredge's opinions of her) through her own statements. In this way, much of The Moonstone resembles a drama on the stage in which character must become obvious through dialogue, because narration is absent.

In part through Miss Clack's veneration of him, Godfrey Ablewhite becomes associated with Miss Clack in her narration. Godfrey's hypocrisy begins to become clear in this section and resembles Miss Clack's hypocrisy in its false humility. Thus in Chapter II when Godfrey, in the guise of downplaying his account of the attack on him, actually makes himself seem heroic, we see right through this: "What have I done to deserve all this sympathy? I have only been blindfolded; I have only been strangled; I have only been thrown flat on my back, on a very thin carpet, covering a particularly hard floor." Though Miss Clack suspects Rachel of having secrets to hide in this narrative, it is Godfrey Ablewhite who begins to seem suspicious to the reader.

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