Ezra Jennings’s narration consists of passages from his journal, copied directly. On June 15, 1849, he writes that he has mailed Rachel a letter asking if she will agree to the experiment he has planned with Franklin Blake.
Jennings’s journal is the only part of the novel written in real time and organized by date, not by chapter. As the reader later finds out, this is because it was a pre-existing document, and Ezra Jennings could not write a narrative for inclusion in the novel.
On June 16, Ezra Jennings (who is suffering from opium withdrawal) writes that he has found Franklin Blake “miserable [and] restless” as a result of quitting smoking, and that Franklin must go outside to work up an appetite for dinner. He tells Franklin that he has written Rachel and Franklin describes Betteredge’s objections to the opium experiment. Ezra Jennings wonders why he feels such an “attraction” to Franklin, whether it is because (unlike everyone else) Franklin is kind to him or because he allows Jennings to feel sympathy, just as his addiction empties him of feeling.
Jennings and Franklin are again mirrors of one another, here because of their parallel experiences of drug withdrawal. Jennings’s confusion about his feelings for Franklin suggests that, after a life spent emotionally isolated from others, he has finally gotten a chance to connect with someone on an equal and fundamental level. Although he has also dedicated his life to helping people through medicine, he has remained anonymous and received little acknowledgment for doing so.
On June 17, Jennings writes that Mr. Candy is leaving for a trip, which allows him to avoid discussing his experiment. Rachel has written Jennings back, insisting that Jennings’s explanation “satisfied her of Mr. Blake’s innocence” and revealing her obvious love for Franklin. Jennings, whose own “love has been torn from” him, feels that he can live vicariously through “these two young people [whom he is bringing] together again.” Rachel has asked, first, that Franklin not see her letter, and secondly, that she may go to Yorkshire, arrange the house, and be “present as one of the witnesses” for the experiment. Jennings suspects that she wants to tell Franklin firsthand that she considers him innocent, but he worries that this would interfere with the experiment by throwing off Franklin’s emotions. Jennings wonders how he can satisfy Rachel’s request without introducing this interference.
Jennings’s involvement in both attempting to prove Franklin’s innocence and mediating between Franklin and Rachel allows him to symbolically compensate for his own failed romance. Rachel’s interest in helping conduct the experiment shows that, despite some of the characters’ suspicions about Jennings, the attempt to exonerate Franklin will be a team effort. But Jennings is still concerned with making the experiment as scientific as possible—letting Franklin see Rachel before reenacting the crime would almost certainly redirect his anxieties away from the Moonstone (which Jennings plans to discuss with him) and onto the results of the experiment and its consequences for his relationship with Rachel.
Later that day, Jennings visits Franklin, who is feeling somewhat better. Jennings wants to keep him “not too well” and “not too ill.” He tells Franklin that Rachel has consented to the experiment, but not that she is eager to see him proven innocent. Jennings then suffers an acute attack of his opium withdrawal and later writes back to Rachel, suggesting she arrive on the night of the experiment rather than coming to Yorkshire earlier and talking with Franklin.
Jennings continues trying to manage Franklin’s condition, keeping him focused on the experiment at hand. This requires shielding him from normal life and isolating him like a lab rat. This also helps explain why the reader learns about this experiment from Ezra Jennings’s perspective and not from Franklin Blake’s.
On June 18, Jennings writes that he fears he will return to opium, as his withdrawal symptoms are worsening. Betteredge is with Franklin when Jennings arrives for his visit in Yorkshire, and Franklin explains that Bruff wrote him and “expressed the strongest disapproval” of the planned experiment, having asked for the opinion of “an eminent physician” down in London. Bruff refused to talk about the Moonstone, which he and Mr. Muthwaite were confident remained in Mr. Luker’s possession. Jennings believes “that distrust of me was at the bottom of all this,” but Franklin’s faith in him remains unshaken.
Whether Betteredge and Bruff are prejudiced toward the pariah figure of Jennings or simply confused about the prospect of reenacting the crime is unclear. It seems that, while Franklin and Jennings are worried primarily about repairing Franklin’s relationship with Rachel, Betteredge and Bruff are focused on getting the Diamond back. This difference in priorities may stem from a difference in personality or sense of value: Bettereddge and Bruff are worldly and practical, focused on status and money, whereas Franklin and Jennings are emotion- and relationship-driven.
Betteredge turns to Jennings, expresses his stern disapproval of the experiment, and yet promises that he will faithfully carry out his orders, as always. He asks for Jennings’s specific directions—to decorate the house exactly like the year before (besides the few things that cannot exactly be replicated). Betteredge asks about a long list of minutiae (for instance, does he need to replace the pins under the carpet? and does he need to repair the “statue of a fat naked child”—Cupid—whose wing fell off?). “Speaking as a servant,” Betteredge thanks Jennings for his information, and “speaking as a man,” he tells Jennings that his “head is full of maggots.”
Betteredge presents his conscience as split: he personally objects to the experiment but remains professionally committed to executing Rachel’s orders perfectly. (This raises the question of in which capacity, personal or professional, he wrote his narrative.) But, clearly, he has trouble holding these apart, and his condescending tone while going over the details of his job provide a comic foil to the similarly over-serious (but much more self-aware) Mr. Jennings.
The next day, on June 19, Jennings writes that he received a letter from Mrs. Merridew, who complains that she cannot send the 19-year-old Rachel away “without a ‘chaperone.’” Jennings interprets this as proof “that Mrs. Merridew stands in mortal fear of the opinion of the world.” Unfortunately, Jennings could not care less about the world, and only wants to reunite Rachel and Franklin, “two young people who love each other.”
Mrs. Merridew’s request clashes with Rachel’s independence and intelligence. She is certainly an adult capable of acting alone, although social norms mean both that people continue to treat her as a child and that she cannot be seen visiting a house full of men alone.
On June 20, Jennings writes that Franklin’s condition is starting to approximate “his continued restlessness” at the time of the Diamond’s theft, and also that Sergeant Cuff wrote to Franklin from Ireland. Cuff has written that, if he “made any serious mistake” in his initial investigation, he will return to correct it, but that otherwise he hopes “to remain in his retirement” with his roses. Jennings asks Franklin to offer Cuff all the relevant details of the last year and to ask the Sergeant to serve as another witness during “the experiment.”
So far, the experiment seems to be working: Franklin is nearly ready to reenact the theft. Cuff’s retirement suggests that he has finally won the life of peace, solitude, and aesthetic pleasure he long desired—but he remains committed to carrying out justice, no matter the cost, and holds these opposite halves of his personality together.
Jennings and Franklin then visit the Verinder house, where Betteredge is directing the renovations, which may not be going quickly enough. Betteredge stops Jennings on his way out to offer some insight from Robinson Crusoe. Torn between his private reservations about the doctor’s “hocus-pocus” and his official orders to arrange for it, Betteredge explains, he opened the book the previous night and came upon a passage that declared he should always follow “the secret Dictate” in his heart. When Jennings says his conviction in his experiment is not “at all shaken,” Betteredge laments Jennings’s lack of familiarity with Robinson Crusoe and sees him out. Franklin tells Jennings that, by revealing that he fails to “believe in Robinson Crusoe,” he has “fallen to the lowest possible place in Betteredge’s estimation.”
The hyperrational Betteredge’s irrational faith in Robinson Crusoe again makes him look like a walking contradiction. Whereas Jennings is acquainted with a broad field of scientific knowledge, Betteredge believes his favorite book to be the end-all-be-all of all knowledge whatsoever. Of course, Betteredge uses this book to resolve his other contradiction—that between his job and “the secret Dictate” (his personal beliefs)—as well to make estimations about the worth of all the people around him.
On June 21, Jennings writes that Franklin’s condition has worsened and he has been forced to prescribe medicine. And Jennings has returned to his opium—“five hundred drops,” his usual dose.
Jennings’s typical dose attests to the severity of his addiction. However, this does not at all compromise his reliability as a scientist.
On June 22, Jennings writes that both he and Franklin are feeling much better, and that the house is nearly ready. As witnesses, he has secured Mr. Bruff and Sergeant Cuff, in addition to Rachel and Betteredge (and maybe Mrs. Merridew).
Jennings’s witnesses are the key to his experiment’s reliability, because only they can confirm to the outside world what Franklin has done.
On June 23, Jennings and Franklin feel worse again, and Franklin nearly returns to smoking—but throws the key to his cigar-drawer out the window instead. On June 24, Jennings writes that Franklin was “over-wrought [and] over-excited” in the morning, but improved after a carriage ride.
Jennings again points to the necessity of managing Franklin’s condition: if he gets too “over-excited” about the prospect of proving his innocence, he might forget about the experiment itself.
On June 25, Jennings writes excitedly after arriving at the Verinder house, it is finally time for his “experiment.” Blake is “in a state of nervous sensitiveness” worsened by his sleep deprivation, and Jennings is eager to see whether the conditions have been replicated closely enough for the experiment to work. He plans to write in his journal to keep a record throughout the day. In the morning, he notes, a letter arrived confirming Rachel and Mrs. Merridew were setting out for Yorkshire. Betteredge is “in his best black suit, and his stiffest white cravat,” but still disappointed in Jennings’s lack of acquaintance with Robinson Crusoe. Bruff has reluctantly agreed to come, as well, and “nothing has been heard of Sergeant Cuff.”
As the crucial moment approaches, Jennings and Franklin are torn between their desire to replicate the previous year’s conditions and the impossibility of doing so. Beyond the testimony of the witnesses, Jennings’s journal is another means by which he can make a record of his experiment. Despite his private reservations, Betteredge still treats the experiment with the requisite seriousness. And Sergeant Cuff apparently does not think the experiment necessary to solve the Diamond’s theft.
At 7:00 in the evening, Jennings writes that he has tried to bring Franklin Blake back to his previous routine, with “a pleasant stroll in the shrubbery” and plans to eat dinner at the exact same time as the night of the Moonstone’s disappearance, so that Franklin can have digested to the same extent when he takes the laudanum at night. Jennings hopes to bring up the Moonstone after dinner and before slipping Franklin the medicine.
Jennings’s careful planning and attention to detail become especially crucial on the night of the experiment, when Franklin’s mental state will prove crucial to the outcome. This underlines the general uncertainty and difficulty of fixing conditions in an experiment that is at once psychological, physiological, and chemical.
At 8:30 PM, Jennings writes that he has visited the medicine cabinet to prepare the dose of Laudanum, and decided to increase this dose: the amount Mr. Candy stated he gave Franklin Blake was unlikely to create symptoms, and so Jennings is convinced Mr. Candy measured wrongly. Upping the dose also allows him to counteract the fact that Franklin knows he will be drugged.
Jennings introduces some uncertainty into his experiment, but he believes that he is correcting for errors in his other variables.
At 10:00 PM, Jennings writes that “the witnesses” arrived an hour before, and he brought Franklin to his bedroom to ensure it was appropriately replicated. Bruff arrives and is clearly skeptical of Jennings. They agree that Franklin will not know about Rachel and Mrs. Merridew’s presence until after the experiment.
Despite his meticulousness, Jennings understandably remains the target of others’ suspicion for his “bold experiment.” The only way he can convince them is by scientifically proving his hypothesis.
Then, Jennings meets Rachel, who declares she is delighted to see him, despite his “ugly wrinkled face.” She asks him a series of rapid-fire questions and proclaims her love for Franklin. Jennings promises her that she needs only repeat the same words to Franklin to win him back.
Rachel’s enthusiasm, quite the opposite of her attitude toward Franklin the last time she saw him, indicates that she has already forgiven him: she just needed a way to separate his actions from his intentions.
Next, Jennings meets with the harrowed and anxious Mrs. Merridew, who asks if (like all the science experiments she remembers from school) Jennings’s experiment will “end in an explosion.” In fact, she is already convinced of this, “resigned to the explosion,” and simply asks that it not happen once she is already asleep.
Mrs. Merridew’s inane question is, like Betteredge’s overly serious manner, comic relief amidst Ezra Jennings’s morbid seriousness. Her complete misconception about what is going on appears to be a stand-in for the average Englishperson’s ignorance about science.
At once, Betteredge arrives, declaring that Franklin wishes to speak with Jennings, and he tells Rachel to tell Mrs. Merridew that the explosion is planned for the following morning. Jennings goes inside and finds Franklin agitated in his room, asking for Bruff, who is busy working in the next room. Franklin asks when it is time for his laudanum, and Jennings implores him to wait, since he knows that Mr. Candy must have originally given Franklin the drugs sometime around 11:00. Jennings and Franklin briefly chat, and then Jennings leaves to prepare the laudanum.
Rather than explaining the truth about the experiment to Mrs. Merridew, the others simply offer her a false explanation that she can believe—she is, in every way, completely extraneous and irrelevant to the day’s events. Franklin’s preoccupation about the course of the experiment threatens to take his mind off the Moonstone and potentially make him remember that he is undergoing a reenactment at the crucial moment when he is about to re-steal the Diamond.
Jennings notes that the weather is calm, as on the night of the Diamond’s theft, and Betteredge brings Jennings a letter from Rachel, who wishes to watch Jennings prepare the laudanum. Betteredge is surprised and suspicious when Jennings asks him to bring the medicine-chest to Rachel’s sitting-room. Jennings also asks Bruff “to be present” for the preparation of the laudanum and then to wait in Franklin Blake’s room. (He agrees, as long as he gets to continue working with his papers.) Franklin calls over from the next room to insult Bruff’s indifference.
Rachel’s desire to involve herself as much as possible in the experiment without compromising it reflects her hope that she might, at last, be able to forgive Franklin. On the other hand, Bruff’s utter lack of interest shows that his only interest in the experiment is serving as a witness, as needed. Unsurprisingly, Franklin is offended that his own lawyer takes such little interest in his innocence (a matter which would not affect the rest of the search for the Diamond).
Betteredge, Bruff, and Jennings meet Rachel in her sitting-room. Rachel agrees to replicate everything exactly like the year before, and requests to help Jennings make Franklin’s water with laudanum. She kisses the glass and tells Jennings to “give it to him on that side!” She puts “the piece of crystal which was to represent the Diamond” in her cabinet and turns out her lights; Jennings gives Franklin his laudanum and puts him to bed. Jennings, Betteredge, and Bruff sit behind curtains in the same room—the suspicious witnesses grow intrigued and anxious to see what will happen.
The atmosphere surrounding the final preparations underlines how different of an experience the experiment is for Franklin and everyone around him, all of whom are dedicated to cultivating his own individual experience. Although their goal is to prevent Franklin from obsessing about the experiment he is knowingly participating in, they worry for him. His success is a collective effort.
Franklin Blake is restless and worries that the opium is not yet taking effect. Jennings decides to distract him by talking about the Diamond, referring to the last year’s events in detail to “fill his mind” with the subject. In the minutes before midnight, Jennings notices the laudanum begin to take effect, and he signals to Bruff and Betteredge that they should remove their boots, in case they need to follow Franklin.
By bringing up the Diamond, Jennings draws Franklin to the topic he was focused on during the night of Rachel’s birthday. Already familiar with the drug’s effects, Jennings realizes immediately when it begins to hit Franklin—he is watching a familiar experience of his own from the outside.
After a few minutes, Franklin starts muttering to himself, “I wish I had never taken it out of the bank.” He gets out of bed and continues talking about the Diamond—“anybody might take it […] the Indians may be hidden in the house.” And then, suddenly, Franklin gets back into bed—and back out again. He brings a candle and walks out of his room, down the corridors, to Rachel’s sitting-room. The witnesses watch from a crack in the door hinge as Franklin goes into Rachel’s darkened room and takes out the imitation Diamond. Jennings hopes that Franklin’s next actions might reveal what happened to the Diamond. Franklin stumbles over to Rachel’s sofa and lays down on it, drops the Diamond on the floor, and falls asleep. Jennings declares the experiment over.
After many pages of fanfare to build suspense, the experiment passes in a rush: Franklin’s focus on the Diamond translates into a search for it so that he can prevent it from being stolen—and, ironically, for that very purpose, he ends up stealing it. (This is a key example of the contradictions Collins sees in each of his characters’ consciousnesses.) Ultimately, however, it is impossible to ever know for certain whether this is also what happened on the night of the theft: as Ezra Jennings is well aware, the experiment can only ever be an approximation, and the same dose of opium under the same condition could still produce different effects.
With Franklin Blake fast asleep, the witnesses begin to talk about what they should do with him. Rachel suggests they merely let him sleep there, and they agree. They also agree with Jennings that the experiment proves Franklin did take the Diamond, unwittingly, the year before. But the experiment’s second purpose—to find out what did happen to the Diamond—was not achieved. And Jennings is not surprised, since perfectly reproducing the conditions from the year before would have been impossible, and he may have given Franklin too much laudanum. Bruff and Betteredge both admit that they were wrong to doubt Jennings, and admit that the experiment has proven that Franklin took the Diamond.
If Franklin truly did drop the Diamond on the floor after originally taking it, then someone else must have in turn taken it from him. Otherwise, it may remain inexplicably hidden in the house, but this is unlikely. This experiment, unlike most in science, is not replicable—so the protagonists can only guess and move on. Bruff and Betteredge’s surprise at the experiment’s result reveals that it was ignorant of them to initially discount Jennings’s skill as a scientist based on his reputation and appearance. In short, it is a victory for evidence over snap intuitive judgments.
Bruff asks how they might figure out where the Diamond is now, and notes that he is still planning to follow Mr. Luker when he retrieves it from the bank sometime the same month. He insists Franklin Blake follow him to London, and Jennings agrees to help convince him.
While Franklin has exonerated himself, the case of the Moonstone remains open. The protagonists must continue investigating where the stone is now, and Franklin has finally won a right to be one of the investigators.
Rachel comes out of her room to watch Franklin, which she does attentively all night. Jennings remembers his own love and loss in his youth, and writes the present long entry in his journal. After briefly taking leave to suffer a withdrawal attack in the morning, Jennings returns to find Rachel kissing Franklin on the forehead. Around 8:00 AM, she is positioned so that “when [Franklin’s] eyes first open, they must open on her face.” And by 11:00 AM, everyone has returned to London but Jennings, who declares that his “brief dream of happiness is over” and prepares to return to his “friendless and lonely life.” But he is grateful to have played a part in reuniting Rachel and Franklin, and looks forward to their wedding.
The reenactment undoes the theft’s effect on Rachel and Franklin. Now, Rachel transforms her original gaze at Franklin—when she froze up in her bed, watching him steal her Diamond—into a gaze of affection and care, aimed at confirming for him that his success in the experiment has won back her loyalty and faith. Jennings completes his goal—to live vicariously through Rachel and Franklin’s love, when he could never have his own—but still seems to believe that his benevolent actions will never make up for his failures in life.