"The old man quieted them by a word, and then shaded his failing eyes with his hand, and looked inquiringly at the figure at the gate." — second illustration for the twenty-first instalment of Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance. A wood-engraving by Harper & Bros. house illustrator "C. G. B." 11.5 cm high by 17.5 cm wide. 23 May 1868 instalment in Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Chapter 1 in "Second Period. The Discovery of the Truth. 1848-1849.) Third Narrative. Contributed by Franklin Blake," p. 325. [Here, Franklin Blake, returned from ten months' adventures in the East, has taken the train from London to Yorkshire to enlist Gabriel Betteredge's assistance in piecing together clues that may explain what happened to the Moonstone on the night of 21 June 1848.] 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 the image to enlarge it.

Passage Illustrated: Betteredge in the garden of the Yorkshire estate

"I shall take up the inquiry again," I went on, "at the point where I dropped it; and I shall follow it onwards, step by step, till I come to the present time. There are missing links in the evidence, as I left it, which Gabriel Betteredge can supply, and to Gabriel Betteredge I go!"

Towards sunset that evening I stood again on the well-remembered terrace, and looked once more at the peaceful old country house. The gardener was the first person whom I saw in the deserted grounds. He had left Betteredge, an hour since, sunning himself in the customary corner of the back yard. I knew it well; and I said I would go and seek him myself.

I walked round by the familiar paths and passages, and looked in at the open gate of the yard.

There he was — the dear old friend of the happy days that were never to come again — there he was in the old corner, on the old beehive chair, with his pipe in his mouth, and his Robinson Crusoe on his lap, and his two friends, the dogs, dozing on either side of him! In the position in which I stood, my shadow was projected in front of me by the last slanting rays of the sun. Either the dogs saw it, or their keen scent informed them of my approach; they started up with a growl. Starting in his turn, the old man quieted them by a word, and then shaded his failing eyes with his hand, and looked inquiringly at the figure at the gate.

My own eyes were full of tears. I was obliged to wait a moment before I could trust myself to speak to him.

Chapter II

"Betteredge!" I said, pointing to the well-remembered book on his knee, "has Robinson Crusoe informed you, this evening, that you might expect to see Franklin Blake?"

"By the lord Harry, Mr. Franklin!" cried the old man, "that's exactly what Robinson Crusoe has done!" — "Second period. The Discovery of the Truth. (1848-1849.) Third Narrative. Contributed by Franklin Blake," Ch. I-II, p. 326.


And now the criminal (or, more properly, the culprit's unwitting accomplice) returns to the scene of the crime and enlists the aid of an amateur detective. However, almost instantly he realizes that a vital piece of the puzzle has been waiting for him all these months — a letter addressed to him by Rosanna Spearman that her friend Limping Lucy, the fisherman Yolland's daughter, has been waiting to give him. After the nonsensical rambling of Miss Clack and the businesslike account by Mr. Bruff the reader returns to Betteredge with some relief, hoping that he will succeed Franklin Blake as narrator. The portrait is pure Betteredge, with his copy of Defoe's novel on his knee as he practices bibliomancy with it, his two hounds beside him, his "beehive" (wicker) garden-chair, cane, pipe, and (in the American serial only) his old-fashioned livery (that, in fact, Collins had belatedly vetoed). Since the narrative is in first person, we see Gabriel Betteredge as Franklin Blake sees him, and the narrator himself is not within the frame of the picture. Moreover, as Leighton and Surridge point out, this is yet another illustration in which a character is reading:

Heightening this motif of interpretation, the Harper’s illustrations also call attention to acts of reading. This visual pattern underlines the letterpress’s focus on the interpretation of narrative, the “battle over whose perspective and voice” prevail in the novel. In a series of repetitive images, the illustrations show Cuff, then both Blake and Jennings, all reading (Part 12; Part 28, fig. 8). These scenes of characters immersed in books create self-reflexivity around the reading process itself, reminding us forcefully that The Moonstone requires its characters as well as its readers to become active analysers of narratives, their biases, and visual as well as verbal points of view. [224]

Illustrations of Gabriel Betteredge from Various Editions, 1868 to 1908

Left: The earlier scene in which Betteredge attempts to extract from Cuff what he has on Miss Rachel, "I seized the Sergeant by the collar of his coat and pinned him against the wall" (tenth instalment: 7 March 1868). Centre: F. A. Fraser's depiction of the scene near the Shivering Sand when Cuff discovers Rosanna's bootprint, "The Sergeant pointed to the boot in the footmark, without saying a word" (1890). Right: John Sloan's depiction of Rachel's showing off the Moonstone to her guests and Betteredge, 'Lord bless us! it was a Diamond!' (1908) [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Last updated 15 September 2016