October 20, 2023

#08-351: The Moonstone

"Look at the man's face. It is a face disguised--and here's the proof of it!" (Wikimedia)

Note: Wilkie Collins may be a minor shadow of Dickens, but his novels give the same pleasure to the reader. Here. the intrigue ends with a surprise, and coincidences abound.

Get Ready: Can a person do something under the influence of drugs or alcohol that goes against his or her basic nature?

The English writer Wilkie Collins is the most famous novelist you've probably never heard of. Over 40 films have been based on his 25 novels, and at least one of those, either The Woman in White or this book, The Moonstone, regularly appears on most "100 Best Novels" lists.

Before the action of The Moonstone begins, a British officer, Colonel Herncastle, steals a precious stone in India and brings it to England, where he bequeaths it to his niece, Rachel Verinder.

He had ulterior motives in leaving Rachel the stone: its three hereditary guardians will do anything to retrieve it. Herncastle has knowingly exposed Rachel, and her whole house, to danger.

One night the stone disappears from Rachel's room. The suspects are: the three Indian guardians; a maid, who shortly after the theft drowns herself; and Rachel herself, who is suddenly furious with her boyfriend Franklin Blake.

Rachel's mother summons a detective to investigate the case, but he gets nowhere.

During the ensuing year the stone seems to be in a London bank vault. Rachel's mother dies, and Rachel accepts a marriage proposal from her cousin Godfrey Ablewhite, but backs out of the engagement. She becomes increasingly isolated.

Franklin Blake returns from abroad and is determined to solve the mystery. He learns that the maid was in love with him and thought he had stolen the stone, so she did her best to confuse the investigation. When he failed to acknowledge her actions on his behalf, she drowned herself.

But Rachel says she saw Franklin do it! She has been protecting his reputation, even though she has lost all respect for him.

As it turns out, at dinner the night of the theft, Franklin had insulted the medical profession. In revenge, a doctor, Mr. Candy, had secretly given Franklin laudanum. In a drug-induced trance, Franklin had taken the stone for safe-keeping and given it to the cousin, Godfrey Ablewhite, to return it to his father's bank. Godfrey, instead, kept it for his own reasons.

The mystery solved, Rachel and Franklin marry, and we learn that the Moonstone has been restored to its proper place, in the forehead of a statue of a god in India.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

  1. bequeaths
  2. ensuing
  3. hereditary guardians
  4. isolated
  5. laudanum
  6. on his behalf
  7. summons
  8. trance
  9. ulterior motives
  10. vault
  1. to help him; in his favor
  2. secret reasons
  3. leaves in a will
  4. a large, secure room; a safe
  5. separated from others
  6. a drug containing opium
  7. people who have inherited the job of protecting something
  8. a sleep-like state, as when hypnotized
  9. calls on officially
  10. following

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for October 20, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. j; 3. g; 4. e; 5. f; 6. a; 7. i; 8. h; 9. b; 10. d