Franklin Blake went wandering in the East after leaving his aunt’s house. He receives a letter abroad informing him that his father had passed away and that he was heir to a great fortune; he returns to England the next morning. He is quickly informed of all that had happened during his absence. He is naturally curious after Rachel’s present situation; Rachel is currently living with an older Aunt Ms. Merridew. He writes to try to see her, but Rachel refuses. He arranges to visit Betteredge, to visit Yorkshire, and solve the Moonstone’s unfinished business at the seaside estate.
Franklin obtains the letter from Limping Lucy, which gives directions to the hidden tin box in the Shivering Sand. Inside the box is a long letter and the paint-stained nightgown—the nightgown is marked, as all the nightgowns were, with Franklin’s own name.
Upon reading the letter, it is revealed that Rosanna was indeed in love with Franklin. While cleaning the rooms, she discovered the paint-stained nightgown belonging to Franklin, and realized that Franklin was the thief, or at least the last person who had been in Rachel’s room (after Penelope checked in on Rachel at midnight that night). She spoke cryptically to him to try and hint that she knew what she thought was his secret. She made a new one to help hide his supposed guilt, and hid the old nightgown. She never realized that Franklin simply did not notice her, and thought that he hated her. After overhearing that he was not interested in her at all (when she was hiding in the shrubbery), she commenced with ending her life. During the time Franklin and Betteredge are reading together, Mr. Candy’s assistant, Ezra Jennings, pops in and makes a marked impression on Franklin.
Franklin then returns to London to speak to Bruff with the new evidence that he has. Bruff realizes that Rachel thinks Franklin has stolen the Diamond, while Franklin knows for certain he did not; he even asks Betteredge if he had been drunk that night (Betteredge assures him he was not). Franklin and Bruff set up an appointment in Bruff’s house to have Franklin and Rachel meet without Rachel’s knowing. When they meet, they are both still in love with each other. However, Rachel still resists Franklin’s advances. He asks her if she thinks he took the Diamond; she replies by telling him that she saw him take it with her own eyes that night. He leaves, and tries to see Sergeant Cuff, who is currently on a journey to Ireland.
Back in Yorkshire, Mr. Candy has requested to see Franklin (Ezra Jennings told the doctor that he had seen Franklin). Franklin hears about Godfrey, and tries to pay him a visit—after Rachel, Godfrey was engaged to another young lady, and this was also broken off; he then was given money from a rich old lady, one of his admirers; his doctor then prescribed him a vacation to the Continent of Europe—but misses him by a day. When Franklin goes to see Mr. Candy, he finds that the doctor has difficulty remembering things and articulating, after his terrible fever. Ezra Jennings and Franklin slowly become friends—Ezra tells Franklin that he took notes of Mr. Candy’s delirious ramblings, realizing that there was some important news in those words. He tells Franklin about his own past—he is sick and will be dead soon; he has a terrible but false accusation on his head which, fortunately, will only catch up to his residence in Yorkshire after his death.
Ezra Jennings reveals to Franklin that Mr. Candy had put opium (in the form of laudanum) in Franklin’s night drink after the party, after their dispute about the powers of medicine. It proved him right because Franklin slept soundly, but there are unknown effects of the opium that might have led Franklin to do certain things unawares. Ezra Jennings himself is familiar with opium as he takes it to ease the pain from his sickness. Franklin, on the other hand, had never taken it before. Ezra Jennings proposes that they try an experiment: reenact the night of Rachel’s birthday, and see what Franklin does—see if he will take the Diamond from Rachel’s drawer under influence of the drug.
Franklin first comments on Betteredge’s portrait of him, which describes him as a man who encountered multiple cultures throughout the course of his continental European education. He believes Betteredge’s simple nature made the old servant actually believe he saw the different French and German and Italian sides to Franklin’s character. Franklin’s backwards commentary on this quirk of Betteredge’s adds to Betteredge’s character, just as Betteredge’s descriptions in the First Period added, or created, Franklin’s.
When Franklin goes back to visit Betteredge, the old servant comments on his disbelief that Franklin will be staying in other lodgings, since he and Rachel are on bad terms. Given that Lady Verinder has also passed away, this demonstrates the broken state of the Verinder family. Betteredge begs Franklin to “let the Diamond be,” given that it has caused so much trouble, but Franklin realizes that things have to get worse in order to get better again. He does not flag in pursuing the mystery of the Diamond’s disappearance. Things do, indeed, become worse: when Limping Lucy gives Franklin Rosanna’s letter, she berates him for being heartless and terrible. While Franklin is a protagonist, and a sympathetic one at that, he nonetheless loses some sympathy in his blinded privilege. When Lucy asks him, “When you see a poor girl in service, do you feel no remorse?” Franklin responds, “Certainly not. Why should I?” (353). Harkening back to Betteredge’s commentary on how gentlefolks spend their time idly pursuing idle activities, Franklin reveals himself to have more of that gentry-based ignorance in him than expected.
After Franklin discovers that the nightgown in the box belongs to him, he proceeds to editorialize his own narrative, stating that he will now be presenting a strange image of himself. In order to clarify his mental state then, Franklin employs multiple rhetorical questions regarding what he should do, and what this situation means. As someone who has just revealed himself as the perpetrator—but knows his own innocence, Franklin can only read the letter accompanying the nightgown.
Franklin’s meeting with Rachel is a demonstration of the conflict between subjective experiences. Franklin is certain he did not take the Diamond, but Rachel, based on her own eyes, is certain that he did. Both of them are sure that their version of the truth is the objective truth. This is not something that will be solved until later—the truth is deeper and more complex than one person’s limited version of it.
Collins uses Ezra Jennings, a minor character, as a vehicle to move the plot forward. Like a deus ex machina, the virtually meaningless, lonely, and unimportant doctor’s assistant drops in to Franklin and Betteredge’s conversation. Ezra Jennings is an interesting character that seems to peel away from the backdrop of the story. He seems to be larger than The Moonstone story can contain. He comes from a mysterious past, and has an unsure future. He tells Franklin than he himself will soon die from his illness, and that lies about a crime he did not commit will soon catch up with him (similar to how Franklin’s name is already being corroded). Ezra Jennings’s familiarity with opium is the key to saving Franklin’s name. This topic is also something that is near and dear to Wilkie Collins’s own heart—the writer used immense amounts of opium as a painkiller, and so he certainly wrote from experience when Ezra Jennings discusses the effects of the drug.