The first words, when we had taken our seats, were spoken by my lady.
"Sergeant Cuff," she said, "there was perhaps some excuse for the inconsiderate
manner in which I spoke to you half an hour since. I have no wish, however, to
claim that excuse. I say, with perfect sincerity, that I regret it, if I wronged you."
The grace of voice and manner with which she made him that atonement had its
due effect on the Sergeant. He requested permission to justify himself-- putting
his justification as an act of respect to my mistress. It was impossible, he said,
that he could be in any way responsible for the calamity, which had shocked us
all, for this sufficient reason, that his success in bringing his inquiry to its proper
end depended on his neither saying nor doing anything that could alarm
Rosanna Spearman. He appealed to me to testify whether he had, or had not,
carried that object out. I could, and did, bear witness that he had. And there, as I
thought, the matter might have been judiciously left to come to an end.
Sergeant Cuff, however, took it a step further, evidently (as you shall now judge)
with the purpose of forcing the most painful of all possible explanations to take
place between her ladyship and himself.
"I have heard a motive assigned for the young woman's suicide," said the
Sergeant, "which may possibly be the right one. It is a motive quite unconnected
with the case which I am conducting here. I am bound to add, however, that my
own opinion points the other way. Some unbearable anxiety in connexion with
the missing Diamond, has, I believe, driven the poor creature to her own
destruction. I don't pretend to know what that unbearable anxiety may have been.
But I think (with your ladyship's permission) I can lay my hand on a person who is
capable of deciding whether I am right or wrong."
"Is the person now in the house?" my mistress asked, after waiting a little.
"The person has left the house," my lady.
That answer pointed as straight to Miss Rachel as straight could be. A silence
dropped on us which I thought would never come to an end. Lord! how the wind
howled, and how the rain drove at the window, as I sat there waiting for one or
other of them to speak again!
"Be so good as to express yourself plainly," said my lady. "Do you refer to my
"I do," said Sergeant Cuff, in so many words.
My mistress had her cheque-book on the table when we entered the room-- no
doubt to pay the Sergeant his fee. She now put it back in the drawer. It went to
my heart to see how her poor hand trembled--the hand that had loaded her old
servant with benefits; the hand that, I pray God, may take mine, when my time
comes, and I leave my place for ever!
"I had hoped," said my lady, very slowly and quietly, "to have recompensed your
services, and to have parted with you without Miss Verinder's name having been