"In the fewest words the Sergeant showed them the evidence of the foot marks." — second illustration for the eleventh instalment of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance. A wood-engraving by Harper & Bros. house illustrators. 9 cm high by 15.5 cm wide. 14 March 1868 instalment in Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Chapter 19 in "First Period. The Loss of the Diamond (1848), The Events related by Gabriel Betteredge," p. 165. [Here, the celebrated London detective, Sergeant Cuff, concludes from the bootprints in the sand that Rosanna Spearman, a convicted thief working in the Verinder household, has committed suicide.] Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.] Click on image to enlarge it.

Passage Illustrated

"She has been back at the hiding-place," I heard the Sergeant say to himself. "Some fatal accident has happened to her on those rocks."

The girl's altered looks, and words, and actions — the numbed, deadened way in which she listened to me, and spoke to me​— when I had found her sweeping the corridor but a few hours since, rose up in my mind, and warned me, even as the Sergeant spoke, that his guess was wide of the dreadful truth. I tried to tell him of the fear that had frozen me up. I tried to say, "The death she has died, Sergeant, was a death of her own seeking." No! the words wouldn't come. The dumb trembling held me in its grip. I couldn't feel the driving rain. I couldn't see the rising tide. As in the vision of a dream, the poor lost creature came back before me. I saw her again as I had seen her in the past time​— on the morning when I went to fetch her into the house. I heard her again, telling me that the Shivering Sand seemed to draw her to it against her will, and wondering whether her grave was waiting for her there. The horror of it struck at me, in some unfathomable way, through my own child. My girl was just her age. My girl, tried as Rosanna was tried, might have lived that miserable life, and died this dreadful death.

The Sergeant kindly lifted me up, and turned me away from the sight of the place where she had perished.

With that relief, I began to fetch my breath again, and to see things about me, as things really were. Looking towards the sand-hills, I saw the men-servants from out-of-doors, and the fisherman, named Yolland, all running down to us together; and all, having taken the alarm, calling out to know if the girl had been found. In the fewest words, the Sergeant showed them the evidence of the footmarks, and told them that a fatal accident must have happened to her. He then picked out the fisherman from the rest, and put a question to him, turning about again towards the sea: "Tell me," he said. "Could a boat have taken her off, in such weather as this, from those rocks where her footmarks stop?"

The fisherman pointed to the rollers tumbling in on the sand-bank, and to the great waves leaping up in clouds of foam against the headlands on either side of us.

"No boat that ever was built," he answered, "could have got to her through that."

Sergeant Cuff looked for the last time at the foot-marks on the sand, which the rain was now fast blurring out.

"There," he said, "is the evidence that she can't have left this place by land. And here," he went on, looking at the fisherman, "is the evidence that she can't have got away by sea." He stopped, and considered for a minute. "She was seen running towards this place, half an hour before I got here from the house," he said to Yolland. "Some time has passed since then. Call it, altogether, an hour ago. How high would the water be, at that time, on this side of the rocks?" He pointed to the south side — ​ otherwise, the side which was not filled up by the quicksand. — "First Period: The Loss of the Diamond (1848), The Events related by Gabriel Betteredge, house-steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder," Chapter 19, p. 166.


The Shivering Sand has claimed the life of Rosanna Spearman, and the Moonstone's curse has claimed another victim. The second illustration (Chapter 19) presents the dreary setting in which a stoic Sergeant Cuff, dripping wet with the driving rain, announces the probable demise of Rosanna Spearman to the local fisherman, Yolland, the estate workers gathered on the shore near Cobb's Hole. The nineteenth chapter follows up the suspense-building curtain at the end of the previous chapter, when Sergeant Cuff tells Gabriel Betteredge that he believes that the hiding place is noted in a letter that Rosanna hadasked the butcher's delivery man to mail at Frizinghall, a letter directed to the Yollands at nearby Cobb's Hole, thereby delaying the delivery of the letter for a few crucial days — during which time, Rosanna has "disappeared" — in fact, she has committed suicide, as the investigation at the beginning of Chapter 19 reveals, and as the illustrations set at the seashore suggest.

Receiving a note from the Sergeant to procure one of Rosanna's boots from her room, Betteredge, despite his advanced age of seventy, makes his way with the boot to meet Cuff at the seashore, adjacent to the South Spit and the Shivering Sand. The look of "horror" that Betteredge sees on Cuff's face confirms the reader's suspicion that Rosanna Spearman has committed suicide, providing a considerable complication for the Sergeant's investigation. Cuff's initial construction of the bootprints is that Rosanna has met with a "fatal accident" in approaching the place where she has hidden the metal box she bought from Mrs. Yolland. For all his obtuseness, Betteredge has rightly concluded that Rosanna has done away with herself, drawn to the Shivering Sand by a morbid obsession. The key image from the weekly instalment in Harper's Weekly depicts the men-servants from the Verinder estate (in other words, agricultural labourers rather than house servants) and Mrs. Yolland's husband, the fisherman (indicated by his sou'wester) running onto the beach, where Cuff's shows the agitated group of men Rosanna's bootprints as he explains what he still describes as "a fatal accident." Since as Yolland attests, she cannot have left the shore by boat, the only reasonable explanation is that she has disappeared into the Shivering Sand. Subsequently, at the close of the chapter, Betteredge receives a final note from Rosanna by way of his daughter, Penelope, confirming that she has taken her own life — and the kindly, old steward accuses Cuff of having hounded her into her watery grave.

The Harper's illustrator conveys the funereal mood effectively through the group of dark-clad men in front of the foaming sea and the stoic figures of Cuff (left) and Betteredge (right). Ironically, no one paid attention to Rosanna when she was alive, but, now that she has mysteriously appeared, the workers from the Verinder estate are eager for news. Whereas the serial depicts a grim-faced Cuff, now reasonably sure that the second house-maid has committed suicide, addressing Mrs. Yolland's husband, the F. A. Fraser illustration for the same chapter, "The Sergeant pointed to the boot in the footmark, without saying a word", realises the moment when Cuff, having discovered Rosanna's boot-heel print in the sand, matches it to the boot that Betteredge (not dressed in livery or tailcoat, but wearing a serviceable tweed suit for a walk by the seashore). Later illustrator John Sloan takes a radically different approach to depicting the seashore near the Yorkshire estate by showing Franklin Blake's surprise at finding that the paint-smeared nightgown has his own name in the collar in "I took it up from the sand, and looked for the mark" — Chapter 3, in "The Discovery of the Truth (1848-1849). Third Narrative by Franklin Blake." The Harper's Weekly dark plate is, however, far more atmospheric as the investigation hits a roadblock, and another death may be attributed to malign influence of the Moonstone.

Relevant Serial (1868), Chatto and Windus (1890), and Scribner's Edition (1908) Illustrations

Left: The earlier scene in which Betteredge and Cuff track Rosanna Spearman down the beach to Cobb's Hole, Uncaptioned headnote vignette for 29 February 1868 (ninth instalment). Centre: F. A. Fraser's depiction of the scene on the beach near the Shivering Sand when Cuff and Betteredge discover the heel-print of Rosanna Spearman, "The Sergeant pointed to the boot in the footmark, without saying a word." (1890). Right: John Sloan's depiction of the earlier visit by Cuff and Betteredge to Mrs. Yolland's cottage at Cobb's Hole, Weigh it in your hand, sir,' she said to the Sergeant. (1908) [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

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Last updated 2 September 2016