One on the top of the other the rest of the company followed the Ablewhites, till
we had the whole tale of them complete. Including the family, they were twenty-
four in all. It was a noble sight to see, when they were settled in their places
round the dinner-table, and the Rector of Frizinghall (with beautiful elocution)
rose and said grace.
There is no need to worry you with a list of the guests. You will meet none of
them a second time--in my part of the story, at any rate--with the exception of
Those two sat on either side of Miss Rachel, who, as queen of the day, was
naturally the great attraction of the party. On this occasion she was more
particularly the centre-point towards which everybody's eyes were directed; for
(to my lady's secret annoyance) she wore her wonderful birthday present, which
eclipsed all the rest--the Moonstone. It was without any setting when it had been
placed in her hands; but that universal genius, Mr. Franklin, had contrived, with
the help of his neat fingers and a little bit of silver wire, to fix it as a brooch in the
bosom of her white dress. Everybody wondered at the prodigious size and
beauty of the Diamond, as a matter of course. But the only two of the company
who said anything out of the common way about it were those two guests I have
mentioned, who sat by Miss Rachel on her right hand and her left.
The guest on her left was Mr. Candy, our doctor at Frizinghall.
This was a pleasant, companionable little man, with the drawback, however, I
must own, of being too fond, in season and out of season, of his joke, and of his
plunging in rather a headlong manner into talk with strangers, without waiting to
feel his way first. In society he was constantly making mistakes, and setting
people unintentionally by the ears together. In his medical practice he was a
more prudent man; picking up his discretion (as his enemies said) by a kind of
instinct, and proving to be generally right where more carefully conducted doctors
turned out to be wrong.
What HE said about the Diamond to Miss Rachel was said, as usual, by way of a
mystification or joke. He gravely entreated her (in the interests of science) to let
him take it home and burn it. "We will first heat it, Miss Rachel," says the doctor,
"to such and such a degree; then we will expose it to a current of air; and, little by
little--puff!--we evaporate the Diamond, and spare you a world of anxiety about
the safe keeping of a valuable precious stone!" My lady, listening with rather a
careworn expression on her face, seemed to wish that the doctor had been in
earnest, and that he could have found Miss Rachel zealous enough in the cause
of science to sacrifice her birthday gift.
The other guest, who sat on my young lady's right hand, was an eminent public
character--being no other than the celebrated Indian traveller, Mr. Murthwaite,
who, at risk of his life, had penetrated in disguise where no European had ever
set foot before.