The Moonstone

by: Wilkie Collins

Second Period, Second Narrative, Chapters I–III

Second Period, Second Narrative, Chapter III

The same evening, Mr. Bruff encounters Mr. Murthwaite at a dinner party. Bruff broaches the subject of the Moonstone, describing to Murthwaite the Indian's visit. Murthwaite points out to Bruff that these Indians are too young to have been the Indians trailing John Herncastle—thus, the Indian conspiracy to reclaim the diamond is far-fetched and old. Murthwaite describes his hypothetical construction of the Indian conspiracy: the Indians always wait to attempt to take the diamond when it is not locked up, as when Franklin took it to the Verinder's. Franklin outsmarted them, so the Indians attempted again on the day the diamond was given to Rachel, but again they failed. The diamond was then removed from the Verinder house that night by someone else—the Indians were in jail.

Murthwaite shows Bruff a copy of a letter that the Indians received in prison. Murthwaite has translated it from Hindu, and the text seems to alert the Indians to the presence of the diamond in London. Murthwaite also refreshes Bruff's memory that Septimus Luker, in his statement after he was attacked by the Indians, spoke of a foreign workman in his service whom he had just dismissed "on suspicion of attempted theft." Murthwaite guesses that that worker sent the letter to the Indians. The Indians again failed to seize the Moonstone from Luker. Murthwaite predicts that they will try again one year after the Moonstone was pledged to him—hence, the Indian's question for Bruff about the earliest date at which a pledge can be redeemed in London. Mr. Bruff marks the date at which the Moonstone can be redeemed—late June, 1849. Thus ends Mr. Bruff's narrative.

Analysis

Mr. Bruff's narrative is similar to Betteredge's, given his position of closeness and service to the Verinder family. Thus, like Betteredge, his narration begins with a longer history of the Verinder family, dating from the composition of Sir John Verinder's will. Also like Betteredge, Mr. Bruff feels almost a parent's affection for both Rachel and Franklin and is concerned to have their names cleared of suspicion around the case of the missing Moonstone. Mr. Bruff's narrative is brief and mainly fills in a large gap of Miss Clack's narrative—why Rachel broke off her engagement to Godfrey—and supplies further developments on the side of the Indians. In this first capacity, Mr. Bruff's narrative serves to confirm what Miss Clack didn't mean to show us—that Godfrey is an untrustworthy man of questionable motives.

Dealing as it does with the Indians (after a significant absence of material regarding the Indians in preceding chapters), Mr. Bruff's narrative ends up subtly discussing race and nationality. Mr. Bruff declares himself in Chapter III to be the "one of the most un-English of Englishmen living," yet his narrative does not bear this out. Like Betteredge, and like many of the characters of The Moonstone, Mr. Bruff holds very traditional English views about conduct and courtesy. These genteel codes are precisely what enable him to declare his Indian visitor a finer embodiment of a man than the Englishman moneylender Septimus Luker. While Mr. Bruff and Mr. Murthwaite, as well, are situated (or would situate themselves on the borders of Englishness) this should not detract from the fact that they behave according to extremely traditional English values. For instance, Mr. Murthwaite's and Mr. Bruff's tempered admiration for the tenacity of the Indians and their accompanying disgust for Septimus Luker can be explained in terms of adherence to class systems—the Indians are high-caste Brahmins, and are accordingly reserved and tactful. They are "the perfect model of a client," while Septimus Luker is of questionable background and "vulgar." Thus the treatment of foreignness in Mr. Bruff's narrative is not so much an pro-Indian respect as it is an upholding of traditional English class values.

This resurfacing of the Indians in the Second Period reminds us that their piece in the mystery was never uncovered. The Indians were cleared from suspicion surrounding the theft of the diamond, yet they have continued to be involved in circumstances surrounding it. Mr. Murthwaite, here, functions as a version of Sergeant Cuff. Using his extensive and perceptive knowledge of the Indian race, as well as some detective work (the letter left at the prison), Murthwaite is able to reconstruct the role of the Indians up to his conversation with Mr. Bruff. The supernatural behavior of the Indians—their consultation with the young English boy and the dark liquid, their mysterious knowledge of the whereabouts of the diamond—is de-mysticized by Murthwaite, who explains the rational basis of these phenomena, in the style of a detective. Murthwaite's analysis also serves to draw a picture of the Indian conspiracy as large and long. The Indians currently involved remain nameless, if not faceless, as they are simply repetitions and heirs of a mission older than themselves.