The Sergeant remained silent, thinking his own thoughts, till we entered the
plantation of firs which led to the quicksand. There he roused himself, like a man
whose mind was made up, and spoke to me again.
"Mr. Betteredge," he said, "as you have honoured me by taking an oar in my
boat, and as you may, I think, be of some assistance to me before the evening is
out, I see no use in our mystifying one another any longer, and I propose to set
you an example of plain speaking on my side. You are determined to give me no
information to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearman, because she has been a
good girl to YOU, and because you pity her heartily. Those humane
considerations do you a world of credit, but they happen in this instance to be
humane considerations clean thrown away. Rosanna Spearman is not in the
slightest danger of getting into trouble-- no, not if I fix her with being concerned in
the disappearance of the Diamond, on evidence which is as plain as the nose on
"Do you mean that my lady won't prosecute?" I asked.
"I mean that your lady CAN'T prosecute," said the Sergeant. "Rosanna
Spearman is simply an instrument in the hands of another person, and Rosanna
Spearman will be held harmless for that other person's sake."
He spoke like a man in earnest--there was no denying that. Still, I felt something
stirring uneasily against him in my mind. "Can't you give that other person a
name?" I said.
"Can't you, Mr. Betteredge?"
Sergeant Cuff stood stock still, and surveyed me with a look of melancholy
"It's always a pleasure to me to be tender towards human infirmity," he said. "I
feel particularly tender at the present moment, Mr. Betteredge, towards you. And
you, with the same excellent motive, feel particularly tender towards Rosanna
Spearman, don't you? Do you happen to know whether she has had a new outfit
of linen lately?"
What he meant by slipping in this extraordinary question unawares, I was at a
total loss to imagine. Seeing no possible injury to Rosanna if I owned the truth, I
answered that the girl had come to us rather sparely provided with linen, and that
my lady, in recompense for her good conduct (I laid a stress on her good
conduct), had given her a new outfit not a fortnight since.
"This is a miserable world," says the Sergeant. "Human life, Mr. Betteredge, is a
sort of target--misfortune is always firing at it, and always hitting the mark. But for
that outfit, we should have discovered a new nightgown or petticoat among
Rosanna's things, and have nailed her in that way. You're not at a loss to follow
me, are you? You have examined the servants yourself, and you know what
discoveries two of them made outside Rosanna's door. Surely you know what the