The Indian — first touching the boy's head and making signs over it in the air — then said, "Look!"
F. A. Fraser
13.9 x 8.8 cm
Second illustration for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone: A Romance in the Chatto and Windus Edition (1890), facing p. 17.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Going round to the terrace, I found three mahogany-coloured Indians, in white linen frocks and trousers, looking up at the house.
The Indians, as I saw on looking closer, had small hand-drums slung in front of them. Behind them stood a little delicate-looking light-haired English boy carrying a bag. I judged the fellows to be strolling conjurors, and the boy with the bag to be carrying the tools of their trade. One of the three, who spoke English and who exhibited, I must own, the most elegant manners, presently informed me that my judgment was right. He requested permission to show his tricks in the presence of the lady of the house.
Now I am not a sour old man. I am generally all for amusement, and the last person in the world to distrust another person because he happens to be a few shades darker than myself. But the best of us have our weaknesses — and my weakness, when I know a family plate-basket to be out on a pantry-table, is to be instantly reminded of that basket by the sight of a strolling stranger whose manners are superior to my own. I accordingly informed the Indian that the lady of the house was out; and I warned him and his party off the premises. He made me a beautiful bow in return; and he and his party went off the premises. On my side, I returned to my beehive chair, and set myself down on the sunny side of the court, and fell (if the truth must be owned), not exactly into a sleep, but into the next best thing to it.
I was roused up by my daughter Penelope running out at me as if the house was on fire. What do you think she wanted? She wanted to have the three Indian jugglers instantly taken up; for this reason, namely, that they knew who was coming from London to visit us, and that they meant some mischief to Mr. Franklin Blake.
Mr. Franklin's name roused me. I opened my eyes, and made my girl explain herself.
It appeared that Penelope had just come from our lodge, where she had been having a gossip with the lodge-keeper's daughter. The two girls had seen the Indians pass out, after I had warned them off, followed by their little boy. Taking it into their heads that the boy was ill-used by the foreigners — for no reason that I could discover, except that he was pretty and delicate-looking — the two girls had stolen along the inner side of the hedge between us and the road, and had watched the proceedings of the foreigners on the outer side. Those proceedings resulted in the performance of the following extraordinary tricks.
They first looked up the road, and down the road, and made sure that they were alone. Then they all three faced about, and stared hard in the direction of our house. Then they jabbered and disputed in their own language, and looked at each other like men in doubt. Then they all turned to their little English boy, as if they expected him to help them. And then the chief Indian, who spoke English, said to the boy, "Hold out your hand."
On hearing those dreadful words, my daughter Penelope said she didn't know what prevented her heart from flying straight out of her. I thought privately that it might have been her stays. All I said, however, was, "You make my flesh creep." (Nota Bene: Women like these little compliments.)
Well, when the Indian said, "Hold out your hand," the boy shrunk back, and shook his head, and said he didn't like it. The Indian, thereupon, asked him (not at all unkindly), whether he would like to be sent back to London, and left where they had found him, sleeping in an empty basket in a market — a hungry, ragged, and forsaken little boy. This, it seems, ended the difficulty. The little chap unwillingly held out his hand. Upon that, the Indian took a bottle from his bosom, and poured out of it some black stuff, like ink, into the palm of the boy's hand. The Indian — first touching the boy's head, and making signs over it in the air — then said, "Look." The boy became quite stiff, and stood like a statue, looking into the ink in the hollow of his hand.
(So far, it seemed to me to be juggling, accompanied by a foolish waste of ink. I was beginning to feel sleepy again, when Penelope's next words stirred me up.)
The Indians looked up the road and down the road once more — and then the chief Indian said these words to the boy; "See the English gentleman from foreign parts."
The boy said, "I see him."
The Indian said, "Is it on the road to this house, and on no other, that the English gentleman will travel to-day?"
The boy said, "It is on the road to this house, and on no other, that the English gentleman will travel to-day." The Indian put a second question — after waiting a little first. He said: "Has the English gentleman got It about him?" — "The Story: First Period — The Loss of the Diamond (1848), The events related by Gabriel Betteredge, house-steward in the service of Julia, Lady Verinder," p. 17.
The story now shifts from the British siege of Seringapatam, India, in 1799, to a countryhouse in Yorkshire in 1848, where the guardians of the Moonstone have apparently tracked the stolen gem, a birthday present for Rachel Verinder which will turn her life upside down as it bears a family curse. Compare the treatment of this same scene by the original Harper's Weekly illustrators for 4 January 1868, The boy became quite stiff, and stood like a statue, looking into the ink in the hollow of his hand.
Although the three East Indians in Fraser's illustration opposite the passage realised carry small drums (much more probable than the miniature military drums in the Harper's illustration) and wear plain cotton clothes and head-coverings, the gesture of benediction by the central figure betrays their true nature: these are the descendants or successors of the three brahmins whom Colonel John Herncastle murdered in Fraser's first illustration in order to obtain the Moonstone at the Siege of Seringapatam fifty years earlier. The dissonance is obvious between the solemnity and high purpose of the the three guardians of the Moonstone cynical although genial narrator, Gabriel Betteredge, who has dismissed the three Indians as potential thieves and charlatans. Knowing that the "It" that the visitor has about him must be the purloined diamond, the reader is more inclined to credit the illustration's version of The Indians — or rather to synthesize the image and Penelope's testimony, while discounting somewhat Betteredge's analysis of the figures and their motives.
- "The Moonstone" and British India (1857, 1868, and 1876)
- Detection and Disruption inside and outside the 'quiet English home' in "The Moonstone"
- "Do you think a young lady's advice worth having?" — p. 94.
- Introduction to the Sixty-six Harper's Weekly Illustrations for The Moonstone (1868)
- The Harper's Weekly Illustrations for Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone (1868)
- The boy became quite stiff, and stood like a statue, looking into the ink in the hollow of his hand. (4 January 1868).
Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone: A Romance. All the Year Round. 1 January-8 August 1868.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. With 66 illustrations. Vol. 12 (1 January-8 August 1868), pp. 5-503.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by George Du Maurier and F. A. Fraser. London: Chatto and Windus, 1890.
_________. The Moonstone: A Romance. Illustrated by A. S. Pearse. London & Glasgow: Collins, 1910, rpt. 1930.
Leighton, Mary Elizabeth, and Lisa Surridge. "The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper's Weekly." Victorian Periodicals Review Volume 42, Number 3 (Fall 2009): pp. 207-243. Accessed 1 July 2016. http://englishnovel2.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/files/2014/01/42.3.leighton-moonstone-serializatation.pdf
Vann, J. Don. "The Moonstone in All the Year Round, 4 January-8 1868." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. Pp. 48-50.
Last updated 2 August 2016