4. John Jasper — Murderer

AND YET he was so ter­ri­ble a man! In short, the poor girl (for what could she know of the crim­i­nal in­tel­lect, which its own pro­fessed stu­dents per­pet­u­al­ly mis­read, be­cause they per­sist in try ing to rec­on­cile it with the av­er­age in­tel­lect of av­er­age men, in­stead of iden­ti­fy­ing it as a hor­ri­ble won­der apart) could get by no road to any other con­clu­sion than that he was a ter­ri­ble man, and must be fled from.

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OHN Jasper is thus in­tro­duced in the open­ing chap­ter of The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood, Dick­ens’s last, un­fin­ished novel. By rea­son of its con­trast be­tween the sor­did opium den in Shad­well and the quiet cathe­dral in the city of Clois­ter­ham — a con­trast as an­tipo­dal as the op­po­si­tion of light and shad­ow in a novel by Hugo — the chap­ter is one of the most startling in En­glish lit­er­a­ture. It strikes the same prophet­ic note of things to come which is sound­ed in the witch­es’ scene herald­ing the tragedy of Mac­beth. It typ­i­fies the eter­nal con­test be­tween good and evil; it re­veals in Jasper — though yet un­named — a man suf­fer­ing from an ab­nor­mal state of mind, from a psy­chosis ag­gra­vat­ed by drug in­tox­i­ca­tion.

The mo­tive driv­ing this man to mur­der is al­ready pre­sent in the opi­um-in­duced dream from which he is re­cov­er­ing. Jasper is the Sul­tan; Edwin Drood, his nephew, is the rob­ber; Rosa Bud — the ob­ject of his pas­sion — is the danc­ing girl whom Edwin has stolen from him. And the an­cient En­glish cathe­dral tower rep­re­sents the Vic­to­ri­an moral­i­ty and so­ci­ety against which Jasper is a rebel.

The method he will use to com­mit the mur­der of which he dreams is fore­shad­owed when he seizes a Chi­na­man “with both hands by the throat”; it is the method of the stran­gler. And the man emerg­ing from his opium de­bauch seems to fear that he has talked; that he has re­vealed in his drugged stu­por the plan which he is al­ready for­mu­lat­ing in his brain, that “hor­ri­ble won­der apart.”

Here, then, is a po­ten­tial mur­der­er dra­mat­i­cal­ly pre­sent­ed at the very out­set of the novel. There is no doubt that Dick­ens meant to give us a study of such a man — a study which in its psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions was to go far be­yond any of a sim­i­lar na­ture he had pre­vi­ous­ly made.

The “jaded trav­eller” re­turns to Clois­ter­ham and its cathe­dral to take part in the ves­per ser­vice. And here Dick­ens brings in a motif des­tined to be pro­found­ly sig­nif­i­cant in the later de­vel­op­ment of the novel, and about which I shall have more to say. “Then, the Sac­ristan locks the iron-barred gates that di­vide the sanc­tu­ary from the chan­cel, and all of the pro­ces­sion hav­ing scut­tled into their places, hide their faces; and then the in­toned words, ‘WHEN THE WICKED MAN —’ rise among groins of arch­es and beams of roof, awak­en­ing mut­tered thun­der.”

Note that Dick­ens puts the in­toned words in cap­i­tals, thus stress­ing their im­por­tance. They are from Ezekiel, 18:27: “Again, when the wicked man tur­neth away from his wicked­ness that he hath com­mit­ted, and doeth that which is law­ful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” That is the Law and the Prophet; how is Jasper to meet them?

In the sec­ond chap­ter, we learn from Mr. Tope, the Verg­er, that Jasper has seizures. Dur­ing the ser­vice he had “a kind of fit on him after a lit­tle. Hs mem­o­ry grew DAZED.” This in­for­ma­tion is not sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing the re­cent orgy dur­ing which he had smoked at least five pipefuls of opium. Opium un­der­mines the will power and caus­es psy­chosis; in Jasper’s case, a psy­chosis not un­like para­phre­nia, that ex­u­ber­ant de­vel­op­ment in the vic­tim’s mind of fan­tas­tic delu­sions and hal­lu­ci­na­tions which yet allow his per­son­al­i­ty so to pre­serve it­self that it can make nor­mal re­ac­tions to so­cial life on oc­ca­sion.

What sort of man is the phys­i­cal Jasper, as the in­hab­i­tants of Clois­ter­ham know him? “Mr. Jasper is a dark man of some six-and- twen­ty, with thick, lus­trous, well-ar­ranged black hair and whiskers. He looks older than he is, as dark men often do. His voice is deep and good, his face and fig­ure are good, his man­ner is a lit­tle som­bre.” He plays the piano, sings well, is a suc­cess­ful teach­er of music, and is a read­er — wit­ness “the book-shelves on the wall.”

He is young Edwin Drood’s uncle and guardian, un­doubt­ed­ly a younger broth­er of Edwin’s moth­er. He is ap­par­ent­ly de­vot­ed to Edwin, for whom he shows an al­most wom­an­ish so­lic­i­ta­tion. When his nephew comes to visit him, he ad­dress­es the youth as “My dear Edwin!” and con­tin­ues: “Get off your great­coat, bright boy, and sit down here in your own cor­ner. Your feet are not wet? Pull your boots off. Do pull your boots off.” He makes fre­quent use of en­dear­ing terms, and is not averse to touch­ing the ob­ject of his af­fec­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, “once for all, a look of in­tent­ness and in­ten­si­ty — a look of hun­gry, ex­act­ing, watch­ful, and yet de­vot­ed af­fec­tion — is al­ways, now and ever af­ter­wards, on the Jasper face.” “It is al­ways con­cen­trat­ed. Dick­ens ex­press­es him­self in this way to show the con­flict going on in Jasper’s mind. He en­vies Edwin his care­free life; he is gen­uine­ly fond of his nephew, but the fact that Edwin is to marry Rosa has doomed him to de­struc­tion.

Jasper has an un­usu­al ca­pac­i­ty for see­ing things not with­in his range of vi­sion. “Fixed as the look the young fel­low meets, is, there is yet m it some strange power of sud­den­ly in­clud­ing the sketch over the chim­ney piece.” This sketch is Edwin’s por­trait of Rosa Bud, to whom lie has been pledged since child­hood — the young girl to whom Jasper gives music lessons and whom he loves with a se­cret pas­sion.

When Edwin rebels against mar­riage by an­tic­i­pa­tion and a life “laid down to scale, and lined and dot­ted out — like a sur­vey­or’s plan,” Jasper has an­oth­er seizure and con­fess­es to Edwin that he has been tak­ing opium for a pain. That he is Lay Pre­cen­tor of the cathe­dral, choir­mas­ter, and music mas­ter, means noth­ing to him; he hates the cramped monotony of his ex­is­tence. He is weary of the re­li­gious ser­vice. He bursts out against the cathe­dral, which is to him the epit­o­me of the “op­pres­sive re­spectabil­i­ty” of Clois­ter­ham it­self. “No wretched monk who droned his life away in that gloomy place, be­fore me, can have been more tired of it than I am. He could take for re­lief (and did take) to carv­ing demons out of the stalls and seats and desks. What shall I do? Must I take to carv­ing them out of my heart?”

But this is a con­fi­dence be­tween them. “I have re­posed it in you, be­cause —” He breaks off, for he has been on the verge of say­ing: “be­cause we both love Rosa.” And he fi­nal­ly con­cludes, with ref­er­ence to his self-rev­e­la­tion: “Take it as a warn­ing, then:”

This speech has a dou­ble mean­ing; it not only ad­mon­ish­es Edwin that he should sub­due him­self to his vo­ca­tion, as Jasper has re­solved to do, but it re­veals the in­tent to de­stroy Edwin, who stands be­tween Jasper and Rosa. And “Mr. Jasper’s steadi­ness of face and fig­ure be­comes so mar­vel­lous that his breath­ing seems to have stopped” until Edwin, who is es­sen­tial­ly self­ish, as­sures him that he was not pre­pared for such sac­ri­fice — owing to fond­ness for him — as the lay­ing bare of his uncle’s inner self.

Edwin has no idea that Jasper loves Rosa; he has missed the deep­er, hid­den mean­ing of the warn­ing.

“You won’t be warned, then?” Jasper re­it­er­ates, with a quiet smile.

“No, Jack.”

“You can’t be warned, then?“

Thus Jasper makes dou­bly sure that Edwin has not taken his con­fi­dence for the per­son­al threat it re­al­ly is, since the in­tent to mur­der his nephew al­ready oc­cu­pies his mind.

In his notes for this chap­ter in which Jasper and Edwin dine to­geth­er and hold the con­ver­sa­tion which I have sum­ma­rized, Dick­ens wrote: “Uncle and Nephew. Mur­der very far off.” But the germ of mur­der lay in that “hor­ri­ble won­der apart,” and we may ex­pect to see it de­vel­op at our next meet­ing with Jasper. It is late au­tumn when he is re­ceived for the first time by the pompous ass, Thomas Sapsea; cer­tain­ly be­fore Novem­ber 9, Lord Mayor’s Day, for Sapsea has not yet been ex­alt­ed to the of­fice of mayor, a po­si­tion he later holds. Jasper has come — ev­i­dent­ly at the in­vi­ta­tion of the older man — to speak about the late Mrs. Sapsea, and to give his opin­ion of the amaz­ing epi­taph which the wid­ow­er has com­posed in her honor. His real pur­pose in com­ing is to flat­ter Sapsea, be­cause he plans to make use of him later on. Or rather, Dick­ens in­tends him to make use of Sapsea, for again in the notes writ­ten for his own guid­ance we find: “MR. SAPSEA. Con­nect Jasper with him. (He will want a solemn don­key by and by.)”

Jasper cer­tain­ly does flat­ter Sapsea, and he meets old Dur­dles, the stone­ma­son, of whom Dick­ens says: “With the Cathe­dral crypt he is bet­ter ac­quaint­ed than any liv­ing au­thor­i­ty.” Dur­dles has also been sum­moned by Sapsea in con­nec­tion with the epi­taph. Sapsea gives him the com­po­si­tion — ap­proved by Jasper, — where­upon en­sues a con­ver­sa­tion which is of paramount im­por­tance to the choir­mas­ter.

“Is this to be put in hand at once, Mr. Sapsea?” Dur­dles in­quires.

“Mr. Sapsea, with an Au­thor’s anx­i­ety to rush into pub­li­ca­tion, replies that it can­not be out of hand too soon.

“ ‘You had bet­ter let me have the key then,’ says Dur­dles.

“ ‘Why, man, it is not to be put in­side the mon­u­ment!’ ”

The ital­ics are mine — for it is my con­tention that Jasper first con­ceives the idea of se­cret­ing Edwin’s body in this par­tic­u­lar tomb as a re­sult of Sapsea’s re­mark.

Sapsea gets the key to the mon­u­ment and hands it to Dur­dles, who tucks it away in a large, in­side breast pock­et of his flan­nel coat. Where­upon Jasper re­marks: ‘Why, Dur­dles! you are un­der­mined with pock­ets!”

“‘And I car­ries weight in ‘em too, Mr. Jasper. Feel those!’ pro­duc­ing two other large keys.

“‘Hand me Mr. Sapsea’s like­wise. Sure­ly this is the heav­i­est of the three.’”

While Jasper chats with Dur­dles about the ori­gin of the lat­ter’s nick­name, “Stony,” he has an op­por­tu­ni­ty to weigh the three keys and be­come fa­mil­iar with their ap­pear­ance. He clinks one key against an­oth­er, and clinks again with a change of keys. The only pur­pose of this scene is to in­form the read­er that Jasper is now cog­nizant of the shape, weight, and ring­ing tone of the key to the Sapsea tomb. And we may be sure that he notes the fact that Dur­dles “drops his two keys back into his pock­et one by one, and but­tons them up”; that he “takes his din­ner-bun­dle from the chair-back on which he hung it when he came in”; and that he “dis­tributes the weight he car­ries, by tying the third key up in it.” Can there be any doubt that Dick­ens meant this “third key” to be that of the Sapsea mon­u­ment? Jasper has in­deed ob­tained a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion from his visit, for his plan to rid him­self of his nephew is now def­i­nite­ly be­gin­ning to take shape.

Jasper next ap­pears at the “friend­ly din­ner” planned by Minor Canon Crisparkle and his moth­er to wel­come the ad­vent of Neville and He­le­na Land­less to Clois­ter­ham, a din­ner which also brings to­geth­er as guests Edwin and Rosa, Miss Twin­kle­ton — head­mistress of the Nuns’ House, the school in which Rosa is a pupil and to which He­le­na is soon to be ad­mit­ted, — and Luke Hon­eythun­der, blus­ter­ing phi­lan­thropist and guardian of the new­com­ers. The din­ner is a “dole­ful break­down,” owing to Luke’s bump­tious ar­ro­gance, — but the con­fi­dences which fol­low are of great sig­nif­i­cance for Jasper. Then comes the piano scene, dur­ing which Jasper ac­com­pa­nies Rosa as she sings, and dis­plays pow­ers of an­i­mal mag­netism or hyp­no­sis which re­veal a new phase of his com­plex na­ture.

“It was a con­se­quence of his play­ing the ac­com­pa­ni­ment with­out notes, and of her being a heed­less lit­tle crea­ture, very apt to go wrong, that he fol­lowed her lips most at­ten­tive­ly, with his eyes as well as hands; care­ful­ly and soft­ly hint­ing the key-note from time to time.” And not con­tent with this sug­ges­tion of Jasper’s dom­i­nance of Rosa, Dick­ens soon adds: “As Jasper watched the pret­ty lips, and ever and again hint­ed the one note, as though it were a low whis­per from him­self, the voice be­came less steady, until all at once the singer broke into a burst of tears, and shrieked out, with her hands over her eyes: ‘I can’t bear this! I am fright­ened! Take me away!’”

Miss Land­less, who is her­self pos­sessed of hyp­not­ic and tele­path­ic pow­ers, at once takes charge of Rosa, while Jasper sits quiet, “not even look­ing round. Edwin, with his usual ob­tuse­ness, re­marks:

“Pussy’s not used to an au­di­ence; that’s the fact. She got ner­vous, and couldn’t hold out. Be­sides, Jack, you are such a con­sci­en­tious mas­ter, and re­quire so much, that I be­lieve you make her afraid of you. No won­der.”

“No won­der,” re­peats He­le­na. But with deep­er in­sight into the cause of Rosa’s break­down.

“There, Jack, you hear? You would be afraid of him, under sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, wouldn’t you, Miss Land­less?”

“Not under any cir­cum­stances,” re­turns He­le­na.

“Jasper brought down his hands, looked over his shoul­der, and begged to thank Miss Land­less for her vin­di­ca­tion of his char­ac­ter. Then he fell to dumb­ly play­ing, with­out strik­ing the notes, while his lit­tle pupil was taken to an open win­dow for air, and was oth­er­wise pet­ted and re­stored. When she was brought back, his place was empty.”

He rec­og­nizes in He­le­na Land­less a pow­er­ful ad­ver­sary, one who can get the bet­ter of him at his own game.

Added mean­ing is given to this strange scene by Rosa her­self, when, in the safe­ty of their bed­room at Miss Twin­kle­ton’s school, she makes a con­fi­dante of He­le­na. After telling her new friend that she feels as though Jasper “could pass in through the wall when he is spo­ken of,” she adds: “He has made a slave of me with his looks. He has forced me to un­der­stand him, with­out his say­ing a word; and he has forced me to keep si­lence, with­out his ut­ter­ing a threat. When I play, he never moves his eyes from my hands. When I sing, he never moves his eyes from my lips. When he cor­rects me, and strikes a note, or a chord, or plays a pas­sage, he him­self is in the sounds, whis­per­ing that he pur­sues me’ as a lover, and com­mand­ing me to keep his se­cret. 1 avoid his eyes, but he forces me to see them with­out look­ing at them. Even when a glaze comes over them (which is some­times the case), and he seems to wan­der away into a fright­ful sort of dream in which he threat­ens most, he obliges me to know it, and to know that he is sit­ting close at my side, more ter­ri­ble to me than ever.”

This is Jasper’s hyp­not­ic power ex­er­cis­ing the same sort of fas­ci­na­tion a snake has over a bird. And Rosa, fright­ened by this force, ap­peals to He­le­na for pro­tec­tion. It is tac­it­ly given, and Dick­ens can­not re­frain from a bit of fore­shad­ow­ing which must in­evitably arouse the read­er’s in­ter­est. “There was a slum­ber­ing gleam of fire in the in­tense dark eyes [He­le­na sj, though they were then soft­ened with com­pas­sion and ad­mi­ra­tion. Let whom­so­ev­er it most con­cerned look well to it!” It is not my pur­pose in this study to deal with pos­si­ble plot de­vel­op­ments be­yond the frag­ment left by Dick­ens, so I shall pass over this fore­shad­ow­ing. The im­por­tant part of Rosa’s speech is that final sen­tence in which she ac­knowl­edges a shad­owy pre­sen­ti­ment that Jasper is threat­en­ing some­thing fear­ful in the vague dream into which he seems to wan­der. That threat is, of course, the de­struc­tion of Edwin.

Cir­cum­stances fur­ther favor Jasper when he over­hears the quar­rel be­tween Edwin and Neville as they leave the Nuns’ House after es­cort­ing Rosa and He­le­na home. This quar­rel grows out of Nevile’s sud­den in­ter­est in Rosa and his re­sent­ment at Edwin’s pa­tron­iz­ing at­ti­tude to­ward his fiancée. That he has over­heard the dis­pute is an in­evitable con­clu­sion, in view of what oc­curs later at the gate­house when he in­vites them in to his lodg­ings to take a stir­rup cup after hav­ing tem­porar­i­ly com­posed their dif­fer­ences. Being quick to per­ceive that Neville Land­less has formed a dis­like for Edwin, he re­solves to make the most of it.

His first ac­tion upon en­ter­ing his rooms is to di­rect at­ten­tion to Edwin’s por­trait of Rosa by shad­ing a lamp to throw the light upon it, and by ask­ing Nevile whether he rec­og­nizes it. The en­su­ing con­ver­sa­tion brings out again Edwin’s pa­tron­age and in­dif­fer­ence to Rosa, and arous­es the an­tag­o­nism of the im­petu­ous Nevi1le. Jasper smiles slight­ly, and turns away to mix a jug of mulled wine at the fire. When Dick­ens says, “It seems to re­quire much mix­ing and com­pound­ing,” he is in­form­ing the read­er that Jasper drugs the con­coc­tion.

The young men con­tin­ue their quar­rel until Jasper hands each one of them a large gob­let glass of his mix­ture, fills one for him­self, and pro­pos­es: “Come, Mr. Neville, we are to drink to my nephew, Ned. As it is his foot that is in the stir­rup — metaphor­i­cal­ly — our stir­rup-cup is to be de­vot­ed to him. Ned, my dear­est fel­low, my love!”

The three men drink, where­upon Jasper de­lib­er­ate­ly sets out to fo­ment the an­tag­o­nism ex­ist­ing be­tween his guests and to bring it to a pitch of vi­o­lence.

“Look at him,” Jasper cries to young Land­less. “See where he lounges so eas­i­ly, Mr. Neville! The world is all be­fore him where to choose. A life of stir­ring work and in­ter­est, a life of change and ex­cite­ment, a life of do­mes­tic ease and love! Look at him!”

The drugged wine is al­ready hav­ing its ef­fect on the two young men as Jasper pro­ceeds. Need­less to say, his own gob­let con­tains liq­uid which is free from the drug.

“See how lit­tle he heeds it all! It is hard­ly worth his while to pluck the gold­en fruit that hangs ripe on the tree for him. And yet con sider the con­trast, Mr. Neville. You and I have no prospect of stir­ring work and in­ter­est, or of change and ex­cite­ment, or of do­mes­tic ease and love. You and I have no prospect (un­less you are more for­tu­nate than I am, which may eas­i­ly be), but the te­dious un­chang­ing round of this dull place.”

Jasper speaks from the heart, de­spite his ban­ter­ing vein; his envy of Edwin and his pas­sion for Rosa are the driv­ing mo­tives for what he says. The de­sired re­sult is pro­duced; the two young men soon re­sume their heat­ed words until both be­come in­sult­ing.

“You are a com­mon fel­low, and a com­mon boast­er,” Nevile fi­nal­ly cries.

“Pooh, pooh,” re­turns Edwin, “how should you know? You may know a black com­mon fel­low, or a black com­mon boast­er, when you see him (and no doubt you have a large ac­quain­tance that way), but you are no judge of white men.”

The al­lu­sion is to Neville’s swarthy skin; he and his twin sis­ter He­le­na are from Cey­lon. Neville flings the dregs of his gob­let at Edwin, and is about to hurl the gob­let it­self when Jasper seizes his arm.

“‘Ned, my dear fel­low!’ he cries in a loud voice; ‘I en­treat you, I com­mand you, to be still! Mr. Neville, for shame! Give this glass to me. Open your hand, sir. I WILL have it!

Neville throws him off, dash­es the gob­let down under the grate, and leaves the house, for­get­ting his hat.

Jasper has gained his end, for he has es­tab­lished a state of hos­til­i­ty be­tween the two, and has in young Land­less a po­ten­tial sus­pect as the mur­der­er of Edwin when his plan to de­stroy his nephew has been fully ma­tured and car­ried out.

To fur­ther this sit­u­a­tion, Jasper goes to the home of Mr. Crisparkle on the pre­text of re­turn­ing Neville’s hat. The good Minor Canon has just seen Neville to bed after a dis­tress­ing in­ter­view. He re­ceives Jasper, and there fol­lows a talk be­tween them which pre­sents one of the most baf­fling mys­ter­ies in the novel. Be­fore I go into this mys­tery, I must turn back to a pre­vi­ous point in the story, the close of the dole­ful din­ner given by Mr. Crisparkle ear­li­er the same evening.

When Mr. Crisparkle and Neville were re­turn­ing from see­ing Mr. Hon­eythun­der off on the om­nibus, the Minor Canon’s young charge took oc­ca­sion to speak of He­le­na and of him­self. He praised his sis­ter in no un­cer­tain terms, but spoke frankly of his own short­com­ings re­sult­ing from the life he has led.

“And to fin­ish with, sir,” he said, “I have been brought up among ab­ject and servile de­pen­dents, of an in­fe­ri­or race, and I may eas­i­ly have con­tract­ed some affin­i­ty with them. Some­times, I don’t know but that it may be a drop of what is tiger­ish in their blood.” The ital­ics are mine.

Later that same evening, when he is en­deav­or­ing to ex­plain his ap­par­ent­ly in­tox­i­cat­ed con­di­tion to Mr. Crisparkle after his quar­rel with Edwin, Neville says, with ref­er­ence to young Drood: “He goad­ed me, sir, be­yond my power of en­durance. I can­not say whether or no he meant it at first, but he did it. He cer­tain­ly meant it at last. In short, sir, in the pas­sion into which he lashed me, I would have cut him down if I could, and I tried to do it.” Again the ital­ics are mine.

Now it is worth not­ing that on these two oc­ca­sions Jasper could not pos­si­bly have over­heard what Neville said. On the first oc­ca­sion, he was still at the din­ner table in the Crisparkle home, and then at the piano ac­com­pa­ny­ing Rosa. In the sec­ond, he was on his way to the Minor Canon’s house; his knock at the door is not heard by Crisparkle until he de­scends the stairs after say­ing good night to Neville. Yet mark what fol­lows, when Jasper is ad­mit­ted by the Minor Canon.

“We have had an awful scene with him,’ says Jasper, in a low voice.” He refers, of course, to Neville.

“‘Has it been so bad as that?’


“Mr. Crisparkle re­mon­strates: ‘No, no, no. Do not use such strong words.’

“He might have laid my dear boy dead at my feet. It is no fault of his, that he did not. But that I was, through the mercy of God, swift and strong with him, he would have cut him down on my hearth.’

“The phrase smites home. ‘Ah!’ thinks Mr. Crisparkle, ‘his own words!’

“See­ing what I have seen to-night, and hear­ing what I have heard, adds Jasper, with great earnest­ness, 1 shall never know peace of mind when there is dan­ger of those two com­ing to­geth­er, with no one else to in­ter­fere. It was hor­ri­ble. There is some­thing of the tiger in his dark blood.’

Ah! thinks Mr. Crisparkle, so he said!

How was Jasper aware of the strong state­ments made by Neville at two wide­ly sep­a­rat­ed times, and in places at which Jasper could not con­ceiv­ably have been pre­sent? I re­peat that we have here one of the out­stand­ing mys­ter­ies of the novel. That Dick­ens con­sid­ered this enig­ma a mat­ter of im­por­tance, we can­not doubt, for he has so la­bored the point that it can­not be over­looked or for­got­ten. It may pos­si­bly be an ex­am­ple of thought trans­fer­ence or read­ing of the mind, yet Jasper dis­plays no such abil­i­ty later on in the story, when it might have been to his ut­most ad­van­tage to do so. I con­fess that these pas­sages have given me no lit­tle con­cern; I am still at a loss to ex­plain to my own sat­is­fac­tion how Jasper came to say al­most the very words ut­tered by Neville. What use Dick­ens would have made of this un­can­ny knowl­edge of Jasper’s is a mat­ter for con­jec­ture. I have never as yet seen any dis­cus­sion of the point I have raised; but the weird, al­most ver­ba­tim rep­e­ti­tion of Neville’s re­marks cer­tain­ly im­press­es me, as it did Mr. Crisparkle.

Be that as it may, Jasper has achieved his pur­pose; he has used the ad­jec­tive “mur­der­ous” to qual­i­fy the scene which he him­self staged be­tween Neville and his nephew.

The dra­mat­ic events at the gate­house oc­curred in chap­ter viii of the novel as we have it today, but it was chap­ter vii in the sec­ond num­ber of the story as it was first set down by Dick­ens. This chap­ter should be fol­lowed by the one en­ti­tled “Mr. Dur­dles and Friend,” which is chap­ter v of the novel in its cur­rent ver­sion. This con­fus­ing trans­po­si­tion of chap­ters is ex­plained by a let­ter which Dick­ens wrote to Forster, which I quote from the fa­mous bi­og­ra­phy:

“When I had writ­ten [Forster in­serts: 22 De­cem­ber, 1869] and, as I thought, dis­posed of the first two Num­bers of my story, Clowes in­formed me to my hor­ror that they were, to­geth­er, twelve print­ed pages too short!!! Con­se­quent­ly I had to trans­pose a chap­ter from num­ber two to num­ber one, and re­mod­el num­ber two al­to­geth­er!

This was the more un­lucky, that it came upon me at the time when I was obliged to leave the book in order to get up the read­ings [Forster in­serts: the ad­di­tion­al twelve for which Sir Thomas Wat­son’s con­sent had been ob­tained]; quite gone out of my mind since 1 left them off. How­ev­er, I turned to it and got it done, and both num­bers are now in type. Charles Collins has de­signed an ex­cel­lent cover.”

I shall fol­low Dick­ens’s orig­i­nal order of chap­ters in my study of Jasper, for that se­quence is more log­i­cal than the one forced upon the au­thor by the dis­crep­an­cy of pages which caused him noth­ing less than hor­ror.

When Jasper is on his way home after his brief visit to Mr. Crisparkle, he comes upon Dur­dles, who is being stoned by the imp­ish lad, Deputy. After it has been ex­plained to him that the ston­ing is part of a rit­u­al to urge Dur­dles home­ward when­ev­er he is abroad after ten o’clock, he of­fers to ac­com­pa­ny the stone­ma­son and sug­gests that he carry his din­ner bun­dle. He is, of course, anx­ious to find out whether it still con­tains the key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment. Dur­dles de­clines the offer, but points out var­i­ous tombs in the church­yard near which they hap­pen to be.

After shak­ing off Deputy, Jasper walks on with Dur­dles and brings up the cathe­dral crypt as a topic of con­ver­sa­tion. This leads to the stone­ma­son’s cu­ri­ous ex­is­tence, and to Jasper’s pro­pos­al that Dur­dles allow him to go about with him and to visit some of the odd nooks in which he works.

“‘What I dwell upon most,’ says Jasper, pur­su­ing his sub­ject of ro­man­tic inter­est, is the re­mark­able ac­cu­ra­cy with which you would seem to find out where peo­ple are buried. — What is the mat­ter? That bun­dle is in your way; let me hold it.’”

He re­lieves Dur­dles of the en­cum­brance, where­upon the stone­ma­son asks for his ham­mer.

“Clink, clink. And his ham­mer is hand­ed him.”

In this man­ner Dick­ens in­forms us that the key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment is still in the bun­dle.

Dur­dles now gives Jasper a demon­stra­tion of his re­mark­able ac­cu­ra­cy in lo­cat­ing buried per­sons. Tap­ping with his ham­mer, he ex­plains his art of “solid in hol­low; and in­side solid, hol­low again!” When Jasper voic­es his amaze­ment, Dur­dles goes to even greater lengths in the dis­play of his pow­ers.

“‘Say that ham­mer of mine’s a wall — my work,’ ” he an­nounces. “ ‘Two; four; and two is six,’ mea­sur­ing on the pave­ment. ‘Six foot in­side that wall is Mrs. Sapsea.

“Not re­al­ly Mrs. Sapsea?’

“ ‘Say Mrs. Sapsea. Her wall’s thick­er, but say Mrs. Sapsea. Dur­dles taps that wall rep­re­sent­ed by that ham­mer, and says, after good sound­ing: “Some­thing be­twixt us!” Sure enough, some rub­bish has been left in that same six-foot space by Dur­dles’s men!’” The ital­ics are mine.

Here, in my opin­ion, is one of the most per­ti­nent points made in this chap­ter. Some rub­bish has been left in the six-foot space — rub­bish to which Jasper now plans to add some­thing more grue­some: the re­mains of his nephew. Some writ­ers have con­tend­ed that the re­mark­able ac­cu­ra­cy of Dur­dles in lo­cat­ing buried per­sons was to have been used by Dick­ens in the final dis­cov­ery of the se­cret buri­al place of Edwin Drood. I hold that the fore­go­ing scene is de­vel­oped sole­ly to make Jasper feel as­sured that Dur­dles would never be able to find any trace of Edwin’s body if it were put in­side the Sapsea mon­u­ment. It would be­come part and par­cel of the rub­bish al­ready there, and hence be­yond sus­pi­cion. I main­tain that, from this mo­ment on, Jasper has solved his prob­lem of where to dis­pose of Edwin’s body.

Jasper and Dur­dles pro­ceed on, their way to the stone­ma­son’s home, and at no point in the re­main­ing para­graphs of this chap­ter does Dick­ens tell us when Jasper gave up the din­ner bun­dle. In­deed, there is no fur­ther men­tion what­so­ev­er of the home­ly ar­ti­cle so close­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with Dur­dles. But note what Dick­ens does say with re­gard to Jasper.

“John Jasper re­turns by an­oth­er way to his gate­house, and en­ter­ing soft­ly with his key finds his fire still burn­ing.” The ital­ics are mine.

Now it strikes me as rather un­like­ly that Jasper would have locked his house door when he left ear­li­er in the evening to re­turn Neville’s hat. He did not ex­pect to be away for any length of time, and Edwin was in the gate­house, as we are soon to learn. No, it is my firm con­vic­tion that Dick­ens is here being de­lib­er­ate­ly am­bigu­ous, but that he is let­ting us infer that Jasper now has the key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment. It will be sim­ple enough for him to take an im­pres­sion of it and to have a du­pli­cate made at his leisure. But, it may be ob­ject­ed, how does he re­turn the orig­i­nal key to the din­ner bun­dle be­fore Dur­dles is aware of its ab­sence? Let me an­tic­i­pate a bit, by jump­ing for­ward to the mem­o­rable chap­ter en­ti­tled “A Night with Dur­dles.” Sapsea, now Mayor of Clois­ter­ham, is chat­ting with the Dean, the Verg­er, and Jasper; in the course of their con­ver­sa­tion the Dean re­marks: “I hope, Mr. Mayor, you will use your study and knowl­edge of Dur­dles to the good pur­pose of ex­hort­ing him not to break our wor­thy and re­spect­ed Choir-Mas­ter’s neck” — a grim ex­am­ple of fore­shad­ow­ing on Dick­ens’s part when one con­sid­ers the method of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment em­ployed in Eng­land.

Mr. Sapsea of course replies that he will an­swer for Mr. Jasper’s neck. But how is it en­dan­gered?

“Only by my mak­ing a moon­light ex­pe­di­tion with Dur­dles among the tombs, vaults, tow­ers, and ruins,’ re­turns Jasper. ‘You re­mem­ber sug­gest­ing, when you brought us to­geth­er, that, as a lover of the pic­turesque, it might be worth my while?’

“ ‘I re­mem­ber!’ replies the auc­tion­eer. And the solemn idiot re­al­ly be­lieves that he does re­mem­ber.”

Note what Jasper now says.

“Prof­it­ing by your hint, I have had some day-ram­bles with the ex­traor­di­nary old fel­low, and we are to make a moon­light hole- and-cor­ner ex­plo­ration to-night.”

Some day-ram­bles, in­deed. It was on one of these — and it may well have been in the course of the first, which could eas­i­ly have been made the day fol­low­ing Jasper’s ab­strac­tion of the Sapsea key — that the Choir­mas­ter re­turned the ar­ti­cle in ques­tion to the din­ner bun­dle. That is what I be­lieve ac­tu­al­ly hap­pened.

At any rate, to re­vert to the point at which I aban­doned chrono­log­i­cal order, Jasper has re­turned home. He takes from a locked press a pe­cu­liar-look­ing pipe, which he fills — but not with to­bac­co —” and then goes upon inner stair­case to con­tem­plate his nephew as he lies sleep­ing. Then, hush­ing his foot­steps, he pass­es to his own room, lights his pipe, and de­liv­ers him­self to the Spec­tres it in­vokes at mid­night.”

Well may he exult as he en­ters upon the opi­um-in­duced dreams in which he has al­ready slain his nephew count­less times! He now has a key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment, and, bet­ter still, the as­sur­ance that that par­tic­u­lar tomb will be the safest place of all in which to dis­pose of Edwin’s body. The plan grow­ing in that “hor­ri­ble won­der apart” is pro­gress­ing sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly and with­out a flaw.

On the fol­low­ing morn­ing, news of the quar­rel be­tween Edwin Drood and Neville Land­less has reached Miss Twin­kle­ton’s es­tab­lish­ment even be­fore break­fast. Al­though Dick­ens does not tell us this in so many words, it is in­fer­able that the re­port was spread by Jasper. Cer­tain­ly he told Mrs. Crisparkle of the af­fair, for she says to her son later in the story: “But for Mr. Jasper’s well-bred con­sid­er­a­tion in com­ing up to me, next day, after ser­vice, — I be­lieve I might never have heard of that dis­grace­ful trans­ac­tion.” The China Shep­herdess does not spec­i­fy, but the in­ci­dent to which she refers may well have taken place after the early morn­ing ser­vice.

We are now in­tro­duced to Hiram Grew­gious, the shrewd old lawyer who loved Rosa’s moth­er and who has acted as the young girl’s guardian ever since she be­came an or­phan. He vis­its his ward at the Nuns’ House and dis­charges var­i­ous du­ties, chief among which is the sat­is­fac­tion of his de­sire to learn whether Rosa wants to go through with her be­trothal to Edwin. When he has com­plet­ed this busi­ness, he goes to the cathe­dral, where he meets Jasper.

“Noth­ing is the mat­ter? “ Jasper asks him. “You have not been sent for? “ The fact that he speaks “rather quick­ly” shows how dis con­cert­ed he is by the lawyer’s pres­ence in Clois­ter­ham. Has any thing oc­curred to upset his plan — now rapid­ly be­com­ing an idée fixe?

Grew­gious as­sures him that he has come of his own ac­cord; that he found Rosa bloom­ing; and that his pur­pose was to tell her “se­ri­ous­ly, what a be­trothal by de­ceased par­ents is.”

“And what is it — ac­cord­ing to your judg­ment?’

“Mr. Grew­gious no­ticed the white­ness of the lips that asked the ques­tion, and put it down to the chill­ing ac­count of the Cathe­dral.” Again Jasper fears that some­thing may be afoot to upset his plan.

The old lawyer in­forms Jasper that his sole in­tent was to tell Rosa that such a be­trothal could not be bind­ing if ei­ther party con­cerned had no real af­fec­tion for the other, or in­cli­na­tion to carry it out.

“May I ask, had you any es­pe­cial rea­son for telling her that?” is Jasper’s query.

Mr. Grew­gious re­torts that he had only the es­pe­cial rea­son of doing his duty, and that no dis­re­spect to Edwin was im­plied.

“‘I will wager,’ said Jasper, smil­ing — his lips were still so white that he was con­scious of it, and bit and moist­ened them while speak ing: ‘I will wager that she hint­ed no wish to be re­leased from Ned?’”

Grew­gious as­sures him that he will win his wager, and even­tu­al­ly con­cludes: “ ‘ — she seems to have some lit­tle del­i­cate in­stinct that all pre­lim­i­nary ar­range­ments had best be made be­tween Mr. Edwin Drood and her­self, don’t you see? She don’t want us, don’t you know?’

“Jasper touched him­self on the breast, and said, some­what in­dis­tinct­ly: ‘You mean me.” This is not a ques­tion, it should be no­ticed, but a state­ment of fact.

“Mr. Grew­gious touched him­self on the breast, and said: ‘I mean us. There­fore, let them have their lit­tle dis­cus­sions and coun­cils to­geth­er, when Mr. Edwin Drood comes back here at Christ­mas; and then you and I will step in, and put the final touch­es to the busi­ness.’

“So, you set­tled with her that you would come back at Christ­mas?’ ob­served Jasper. ‘I see! — I un­der­stand that at Christ­mas they will com­plete their prepa­ra­tions for May, and that their mar­riage will be put in final train by them­selves, and that noth­ing will re­main for us but to put our­selves in train also, and have ev­ery­thing rea&y for our for­mal re­lease from our trusts, on Edwin’s birth­day.’

“‘That is my un­der­stand­ing,’ as­sent­ed Mr. Grew­gious, as they shook hands to part. ‘God bless them both!’

“‘God save them both!’ cried Jasper.”

His mind is made up; the plan must go through; Edwin must die. “‘I said, bless them,’ re­marked the for­mer, look­ing back over his shoul­der.

“‘I said, save them,’ re­turned the lat­ter. ‘Is there any dif­fer­ence?’” At this point I would di­rect the read­er’s at­ten­tion to the fact that Grew­gious, by what he has told Jasper, has set a rel­a­tive time limit be­yond which Edwin Drood may not re­main alive. In this re­spect he has forced Jasper’s hand, and is there­fore, to a cer­tain de­gree — al­beit com­plete­ly un­aware of the sit­u­a­tion and quite in­no­cent, — re­spon­si­ble for the mur­der which is to come.

A few days later, Mr. Crisparkle has a talk with He­le­na and Neville Land­less, in the course of which he learns of the lat­ter’s love for Rosa. The Minor Canon ex­acts from Neville a pledge of ab­so­lute si­lence with re­spect to this love, also the promise that young Land­less will make peace with Edwin, pro­vid­ed that Edwin make the first ges­ture to­ward the set­tling of their dif­fer­ences. To at­tain this end, Mr. Crisparkle hur­ries to the gate­house, only to find Jasper asleep on a couch be­fore the fire. “Long af­ter­wards he had cause to re­mem­ber how Jasper sprang from the couch in a deliri­ous state be­tween sleep­ing and wak­ing, and cry­ing out: ‘What is the mat­ter? Who did it?”

Jasper has been dream­ing his old dream; this time, it would seem that Edwin had al­ready been mur­dered; the long-cher­ished plan has been car­ried out.

Jasper re­cov­ers him­self, where­upon Mr. Crisparkle ex­press­es his de­sire that peace may be es­tab­lished be­tween Neville and Edwin. A very per­plexed ex­pres­sion comes over Jasper’s face, and he wants to know how such a re­sult can be achieved. Mr. Crisparkle sug­gests that Jasper might in­duce Edwin to write a short note in­dica­tive of his will­ing­ness to shake hands.

“Jasper turned that per­plexed face to­wards the fire. Mr. Crisparkle con­tin­u­ing to ob­serve it, found it even more per­plex­ing than be­fore, inas­much as it seemed to de­note (which could hard­ly be) some close in­ter­nal cal­cu­la­tion.”

But it can be, and does. Jasper’s plan now in­volves Nevile as Edwin’s mur­der­er — to-be; how can this as­pect of things to come be made plau­si­ble if a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is ef1ect­ed be­tween the two young men? Jasper is in­deed cal­cu­lat­ing.

The Minor Canon tells Jasper that Neville has promised to main­tain a friend­ly at­ti­tude to­ward Edwin, and that he him­self will an­swer for young Land­less.

Jasper agrees to do as the Minor Canon de­sires. He then shows Mr. Crisparkle two en­tries from his diary — a book later to as­sume even deep­er sig­nif­i­cance, — en­tries which ex­press his dread of what Nevile may do to Edwin. Here again he por­trays Neville as a po­ten­tial mur­der.

Mr. Crisparkle ad­vis­es Jasper to burn the diary, and de­parts when Jasper as­sures him that he will take care that his nephew shall “give way thor­ough­ly.”

On the third day after this in­ter­view, Jasper brings to the Minor Canon a let­ter from young Drood. After mak­ing hon­or­able amends, Edwin writes to his uncle: “Ask Mr. Land­less to din­ner on Christ­mas eve (the bet­ter the day the bet­ter the deed) and let there be only we three, and let us shake hands all round there and then, and say no more about it.”

“‘You ex­pect Mr. Neville, then?’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

“‘1 count upon his com­ing,’ said Mr. Jasper.”

In­deed he does, since there is no doubt in my mind that he was en­tire­ly re­spon­si­ble for the re­quest that Mr. Land­less be asked to din­ner on Christ­mas Eve, and that Edwin and he be the only oth­ers pre­sent. Again Jasper’s hand has been forced, and the time sched­ule of his plan ac­cel­er­at­ed a lit­tle more. Now the good Minor Canon is un­wit­ting­ly at fault. By his ea­ger­ness to es­tab­lish peace be­tween the young men, he has set an ab­so­lute time limit to Jasper’s in­tent.


JASPER’S next ap­pear­ance is made in chap­ter xii, “A Night with Dur­dles, con­cern­ing which Dick­ens wrote in the notes jot­ted down for his eyes alone: “Lay the ground for the man­ner of the mur­der to come out at last.” We learn at the be­gin­ning of this chap­ter that Mr. Sapsea not only has be­come Mayor of Clois­ter­ham, but also has im­proved the ac­quain­tance of Mr. Jasper. He has been re­ceived at the gate­house; Jasper has sung to him and so tick­led his van­i­ty that the pompous Mayor con­sid­ers him “sound, sir, at the core.”

The chat be­tween His Honor, the Dean, Mr. Tope the Verg­er, and Jasper — to which I have al­ready al­lud­ed in my dis­cus­sion of how Jasper came to pos­sess a du­pli­cate of the key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment — is then re­lat­ed in de­tail, and so we come at last to the mo­men­tous moon­light ex­pe­di­tion taken by Jasper and Dur­dles.

Jasper sits at his piano chant­ing choir music for two or three hours until the moon is about to rise. Then, equipped with “a good­ly wick­er-cased bot­tle,” he goes to the stone­ma­son’s house.

As the two men start out for the cathe­dral, Dur­dles says: “Ware that there mound by the yard-gate, Mis­ter Jasper.’

“‘I see it. What is it?’


“Mr. Jasper stops, and waits for him to come up, for he lags be hind. ‘What you call quick-lime?’

“Ay!’ says Dur­dles; ‘quick enough to eat your boots. With a lit­tle handy stir­ring, quick enough to eat your bones. ”

Jasper makes no com­ment, but we may be sure that Dur­dles’s recipe is straight­way reg­is­tered in his mind, and that it be­comes an in­te­gral part of his plan.

They hear the sound of a clos­ing house door, and, stand­ing be­hind a bit of old dwarf wall, see the Minor Canon ac­com­pa­nied by Neville com­ing out for a walk. As Jasper watch­es young Land­less, “a sense of de­struc­tive power” is ex­pressed in his face. His plan is well-nigh per­fect­ed, and here is the very man who is to bear the guilt of its ful­fill­ment! Mr. Crisparkle is ev­i­dent­ly telling Nevile about Edwin’s let­ter to Jasper, for Nevile says: “You may be cer­tain of me, sir.” When they move on out of sight, Jasper “turns to Dur­dles, and bursts into a fit of laugh­ter.” As­sured that his cho­sen scape­goat will be at the se­lect din­ner on Christ­mas Eve, he can­not re­frain from open ex­ul­ta­tion.

Dick­ens now makes such a point of de­scrib­ing the “cer­tain awful hush” which per­vades the cathe­dral, the clois­ters, and the church­yard, arid so em­pha­sizes the fact that the good cit­i­zens of Clois­ter- ham shun these precincts, that the ver­i­est novice can per­ceive that a man may go about some strange, un­usu­al busi­ness there and yet es­cape ob­ser­va­tion.

The two ex­plor­ers go down to the crypt, lock­ing them­selves in. As they wan­der up and down, Dur­dles dis­cours­es of the “old uns’ he yet counts on dis­in­ter­ring.” Jasper’s wick­er bot­tle cir­cu­lates freely, so far as the stone­ma­son is con­cerned — but Mr. Jasper only rins­es his mouth once, and casts forth the rins­ing.” This can only mean that Jasper has drugged the con­tents of the bot­tle.

Be­fore they as­cend the great tower, Dur­dles paus­es for breath. He tells Jasper how he was set upon by town boys a year ago, and turned in to the cathe­dral. He fell asleep, but was awak­ened by the ghost of a cry. This was fol­lowed by the ghost of a dog’s howl. “That was my last Christ­mas Eve,” he con­cludes.

What do you mean? is the very abrupt, and, one might say, fierce re­tort.”

Jasper’s mind is so in­tent upon his plan to mur­der his nephew that Dur­dles’s em­pha­sis of the pos­ses­sive ad­jec­tive leads him to won­der whether Dur­dles has any sus­pi­cion of what oc­cu­pies that “hor­ri­ble won­der apart”; whether he has an inkling that the Christ­mas Eve now ap­proach­ing is to be Edwin’s last.

They go up the wind­ing stair­way of the tower and fi­nal­ly look down upon Clois­ter­ham. It is worth not­ing that Jasper con­tem­plates not only the moon­light view of the panora­ma spread be­fore him, but “es­pe­cial­ly that stillest part of it which the Cathe­dral over­shad­ows” — the church­yard.

The drugged liquor has its ef­fect: Dur­dles be­comes drowsy. They de­scend into the crypt, where Dur­dles “ap­peals to his com­pan­ion for forty winks of a sec­ond each.

“‘If you will have it so, or must have it so,’ replies Jasper, ‘I’ll not leave you here. Take them, while I walk to and fro.’

“Dur­dles is asleep at once. — He dreams that the foot­steps die away into dis­tance of time and of space, and that some­thing touch­es him, and that some­thing falls from his hand.” Jasper has come up to him soft­ly and re­moved from his grasp the key to the crypt, which Dur­dles still holds after lock­ing the iron gate. As he does so, the key falls to the pave­ment. “Then some­thing clinks and gropes about, and he dreams that he is alone for so long a time, that the lanes of light take new di­rec­tions as the moon ad­vances in her course.”

This is in­deed true, for Jasper, after re­cov­er­ing the key of the crypt from where it has fall­en, lets him­self out and goes about his sin­is­ter busi­ness. It takes him first to Dur­dles’s yard, which over­looks the church­yard, as Mr. Percy Car­den has proved by his study of the orig­i­nal manuscript. There he finds a wheel­bar­row and loads it with quick­lime. It is rea­son­ably in­fer­able that he might find such a means of con­veyance, and a spade, at the stone­ma­son’s. Hav­ing his du­pli­cate key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment with him, he then pro­ceeds to open the tomb and add to the rub­bish al­ready there enough lime to con­sume a body. The moon af­fords him suf­fi­cient light for his grim labors. By the time he has fin­ished them, re­turned the im­ple­ments he has bor­rowed, brushed off his clothes, and re­joined Dur­dles, who fi­nal­ly rous­es from his sleep, it is two o’clock.

The key to the crypt door is now lying close to Dur­dles.

It should be noted that just be­fore the two men as­cend­ed the tower, Jasper took the stone­ma­son’s din­ner bun­dle. Now, as they are about to leave the cathe­dral, Dur­dles says: “‘Let me get my bun­dle right, Mis­ter Jarsper, and I’m with you.’

“As he ties it afresh, he is once more con­scious that he is very nar­row­ly ob­served.”

Now I do not be­lieve that Jasper wait­ed until this event­ful night to avail him­self of the key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment. He could not de­pend upon the orig­i­nal, which was in Dur­dles’s keep­ing; the very na­ture of his plan would de­mand that he have a du­pli­cate of his own. He would cer­tain­ly need one for fur­ther use, and I have al­ready in­di­cat­ed how he ob­tained it. But I do be­lieve that he want­ed to find out whether Dur­dles still had the orig­i­nal, or whether it had been re­turned to Mr. Sapsea. Jasper is play­ing a des­per­ate game, in which he can­not af­ford to over­look even so slight a de­tail as this. I like­wise be­lieve that Dick­ens want­ed the read­er to as­sume that Jasper took the key to the Sapsea mon­u­ment from the din­ner bun­dle on this par­tic­u­lar night; the read­er would then be all the more at sea in his en­deav­or to fig­ure out how Jasper could again un­lock the tomb on the night of Edwin’s mur­der. I am moral­ly cer­tain that Jasper had a du­pli­cate key, ob­tained in the way I have demon­strat­ed, and that he kept it in his locked press with his opium pipe.

As the two men sep­a­rate to go their re­spec­tive ways home­ward, Deputy yelps out his “Widdy widdy wen!” jar­gon, and pelts Dur­dles with stones.

““What! Is that ba­by-dev­il on the watch there!’ cries Jasper in a fury: so quick­ly roused, and so vi­o­lent, that he seems an older devil him­self. ‘I shall shed the blood of that imp­ish wretch! I know I shall do it!’”

He is des­per­ate­ly afraid that Deputy has seen him at work in Dur­dles’s yard or near the Sapsea mon­u­ment — as prob­a­bly he has, in view of the note Dick­ens wrote for his own use: “Keep the boy sus­pend­ed.” Jasper rush­es at Deputy and takes him by the throat, and it is not until the imp de­clares that he had just come out for his health when he saw the two men emerge from the cathe­dral that Jasper is some­what ap­peased. But, even so, “he goes to his gate­house, brood­ing.”

A few days later, Jasper, stand­ing under the elm trees by the cathe­dral, sees Edwin and Rosa kiss each other good­bye. To him, this kiss is a fer­vent ex­pres­sion of the love ex­ist­ing be­tween his nephew and the young woman for whom he him­self en­ter­tains a lust­ful pas­sion. He does not know that Edwin and Rosa have agreed to break off their en­gage­ment: Edwin, be­cause he has been sobered by an in­ter­view he has had with old Grew­gious; Rosa, be­cause she has long re­al­ized that she can love Edwin only as a broth­er. He does not know that Edwin car­ries with him a ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies, once the prop­er­ty of Rosa’s moth­er, which Grew­gious has given to young Drood with the solemn in­junc­tion that it is to be brought back to him if, for any rea­son what­so­ev­er, Edwin does not place it upon Rosa’s fin­ger as a token of their mu­tu­al de­sire to go through with their mar­riage. Only three per­sons know that Edwin has this ring: Grew­gious; Baz­zard, the old lawyer’s clerk; and Edwin him­self.

“He saw us, as we took leave of each other,” Edwin says to Rosa. “Poor fel­low! he lit­tle thinks we have part­ed. This will be a blow to him, I am much afraid!”

They have pre­vi­ous­ly agreed that Jasper must be told of their de­ci­sion, and Rosa has sug­gest­ed that the in­for­ma­tion be given him by her guardian, Grew­gious.

Rosa hur­ries on, be­cause she can­not bear to be near Jasper, until she and Edwin are at the door of the Nuns’ House. “Be­fore going in, she gave him one last, wide, won­der­ing look, as if she would have asked him with im­plor­ing em­pha­sis: ‘O! don’t you un­der­stand?’”

Be­cause she has pro­posed that Grew­gious break the news of their agree­ment to sep­a­rate, thus seal­ing Edwin’s lips, and be­cause she has never spo­ken to young Drood of the pas­sion which, as she re­al­izes only too well, Jasper feels for her, Rosa, too, in all her in­no­cence, is part­ly re­spon­si­ble for the fate await­ing her erst­while fiancé. That part­ing kiss, over­seen by Jasper, has ir­re­vo­ca­bly sealed his nephew’s doom.

And now it is Christ­mas Eve in Clois­ter­ham — the eve of that Holy Birth­day of which Dick­ens had so often ex­tolled the sa­cred and fes­tive spir­it in his Christ­mas books and sto­ries. By some strange re­vul­sion of feel­ing he now casts aside his “Carol” phi­los­o­phy to choose De­cem­ber 25th as the day for Edwin Drood’s mur­der.

Neville Land­less spends most of the day be­fore Christ­mas in prepa­ra­tion for a walk­ing tour; he can­not en­dure the thought of being a wit­ness to Rosa’s hap­pi­ness at this joy­ous time. He fi­nal­ly goes to the din­ner at the gate­house with a strange pre­sen­ti­ment of some­thing fear­ful to come.

Edwin Drood pass­es a lone­ly day, but makes one visit which is of ex­treme im­por­tance. Find­ing that his watch has stopped, he calls at the jew­el­er’s to have it wound and set. The jew­el­er seeks to in­ter­est him in some of his stock, but “Edwin tells the tempter that he wears no jew­ellery but his watch and chain, which were his fa­ther’s; and his shirt-pin.”

Mark how Dick­ens em­pha­sizes the heir­looms and the pin.

“‘That I was aware of,’ is the jew­eller’s reply, ‘for Mr. Jasper dropped in for a watch-glass the other day, and, in fact, I showed these ar­ti­cles to him, re­mark­ing that if he should wish to make a pre­sent to a gen­tle­man rel­a­tive, on any par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion — But he said with a smile that he had an in­ven­to­ry in his mind of all the jew­ellery his gen­tle­man rel­a­tive ever wore; name­ly, his watch and chain, and his shirt-pin.’”

It would ap­pear that Jasper broke his watch glass on the night when he made the moon­light ex­pe­di­tion with Dur­dles.

“Twen­ty min­utes past two, Mr. Drood, I set your watch at,” says the jew­el­er. “Let me rec­om­mend you not to let it run down, sir.”

Edwin goes out and later meets the Opium Woman, who has come to Clois­ter­ham “look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack,” mean­ing Jasper. After Edwin gives her some money, she tells him that “Ned’? is a threat­ened name, a dan­ger­ous name to bear. Young Drood is some­what dis­mayed as he goes to the din­ner; he “re­solves — to say noth­ing of this tonight, but to men­tion it to Jack (who alone calls him Ned), as an odd co­in­ci­dence, to-mor­row.”

John Jasper spends an agree­able and cheer­ful day. With a grim dou­ble en­ten­dre, of which he was some­times ca­pa­ble, Dick­ens has him tell the shop­keep­ers that “his nephew will not be with him long.” He in­forms Mr. Sapsea of the din­ner he plans to give at the gate­house, where­upon His Honor speaks in an un­friend­ly man­ner of Nevile. It is clear that Jasper has voiced his fears with re­spect to young Land­less in His Honor’s pres­ence.

Moved by a kind of sar­don­ic humor, Dick­ens re­marks that Jasper is in beau­ti­ful voice on this day, but that “the mere mech­a­nism of his throat is a lit­tle ten­der, for he wears — a large black scarf of strong close-wo­ven silk, slung loose­ly round his neck.” Meet­ing Mr. Crisparkle, he tells him that he means to burn his diary at the end of the year. He then makes for the gate­house, but be­fore he goes up to his rooms, he paus­es to “pull off that great black scarf, and hang it in a loop upon his arm. For that brief time, his face is knit­ted and stern.”

It is prob­a­bly this same black scarf, more than any­thing else, which led Mr. Howard Duffield to write “John Jasper — Stran­gler,” an essay ex­treme­ly in­ge­nious in its pre­sen­ta­tion of the the­o­ry that Jasper be­longed to a se­cret band of Thugs, and that by mur­der­ing his nephew he was car­ry­ing out a rit­u­al killing in the ser­vice of Kali, God­dess of De­struc­tion. I do not ac­cept this the­o­ry, for the fol­low­ing rea­sons.

First of all, Jasper is in­tro­duced to us as a man of some six-and- twen­ty; he is there­fore com­par­a­tive­ly young. When one con­sid­ers all that he has ac­com­plished, his very age mil­i­tates against the pos­si­bil­i­ty of his being a Thug. He must have re­ceived his school­ing in Eng­land; he cer­tain­ly talks like an ed­u­cat­ed man, and he uses En­glish idiom. He must also have spent some time tak­ing piano and voice lessons in order to oc­cu­py the po­si­tion he ac­tu­al­ly holds. He is choir­mas­ter of Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral, and a teach­er of some abil­i­ty. I can­not con­ceive how he had time to serve ap­pren­tice­ship in the vast broth­er­hood of Thugs while prepar­ing him­self for such a po­si­tion as the one in which we find him. And, were he a true Thug, I fail to com­pre­hend how he could as­so­ci­ate him­self, as he does, with the An­gli­can Catholic Church.

But Mr. Duffield states that Jasper’s ap­pear­ance sug­gests his Ori­en­tal ori­gin. Is this not a some­what far-fetched con­clu­sion, reached mere­ly be­cause Jasper is dark and has “thick, lus­trous, well- ar­ranged black hair and whiskers”? Now Jasper’s sis­ter was Edwin’s moth­er, yet Mr. Duffield does not sug­gest that her son shows any in­di­ca­tions of being an Ori­en­tal. Per­haps Mr. Duffield was in­flu­enced by the fact that Jasper smokes opium. So did Thomas De Quincey, yet I know of no sug­ges­tion that he was of Ori­en­tal ori­gin.

Some of Mr. Duffield’s state­ments are so open to ar­gu­ment that his whole the­o­ry, ar­rest­ing though it is, leaves me un­con­vinced. He says of Jasper, for ex­am­ple: “In­ci­den­tal­ly, he is shown to be fa­mil­iar with the lan­guages of the East, for, when he lis­tens to the mut­ter­ings of the opi­um-drenched Chi­na­man and the Las­car, he rec­og­nizes them as ‘un­in­tel­li­gi­ble gib­ber­ish.’” Be­cause a man ex­claims “Un­in­tel­li­gi­ble!” when he hears the in­co­her­ent ram­blings of a Chi­na­man or a Las­car, I do not see how it is proved that he can him­self speak Chi­nese or an East In­di­an di­alect. Fur­ther­more, at no place in the first chap­ter does Dick­ens use the word “gib­ber­ish.” As a mat­ter of fact, when Jasper ad­dress­es the Chi­na­man, he asks:

What do you say? If he were fa­mil­iar with the lan­guage, why did he not ques­tion him in Chi­nese?

Again, Mr. Duffield says: “One of the most promi­nent char­ac­ters has pinned upon him the grotesque title of ‘Tar­tar,’ a name as redo.. lent of the East as a whiff of hashish.” Now I should hard­ly call Tar­tar “one of the most promi­nent char­ac­ters” in the novel. We can­not tell how much Dick­ens may have planned to de­vel­op him later, but of the twen­ty-three chap­ters con­sti­tut­ing the frag­ment as we have it, he ac­tu­al­ly ap­pears in only three. As to his title, I can my­self sug­gest a way in which Dick­ens might have cre­at­ed it which is as En­glish as roast beef. First Lieu­tenant Tar­tar, late of the Royal Navy? “Tar” is a com­mon syn­onym for “sailor,” short for “jack-tar.” Dou­ble the com­mon syn­onym and you have “Tar­tar,” a name which has a whiff of the sea.

One more quo­ta­tion from Mr. Duffield’s ar­ti­cle, and I have done. “The lit­er­ary at­mo­sphere in which The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood was cra­dled was dense with a kind of germ for which Dick­ens’s imag­i­na­tion was ge­nial soil, and which would in­evitably fruc­ti­fy into a story es­sen­tial­ly akin to The Moon­stone — which novel, it is worth not­ing, con­tribut­ed, al­most ver­ba­tim, one cru­cial para­graph to the Drood nar­ra­tive.”

I have ran­sacked Wilkie Collins’s great novel for the para­graph in ques­tion. I offer my sin­cere apolo­gies to Mr. Duffield if I am wrong, but I am forced to the con­clu­sion that he must have meant the fol­low­ing one:

“Dr. Abel in­formed me,” says Mr. Combe, “of an Irish porter to a ware­house, who for­got, when sober, what he had done when drunk; but, being drunk, again rec­ol­lect­ed the trans­ac­tions of his for­mer state of in­tox­i­ca­tion. On one oc­ca­sion, being drunk, he had lost a par­cel of some value, and in his sober mo­ments could give no ac­count of it. Next time he was in­tox­i­cat­ed he rec­ol­lect­ed that he had left a par­cel at a cer­tain house, and there being no ad­dress on it, it had re­mained there safe­ly, and was got on his call­ing for it.”

Of course, the fore­go­ing para­graph im­me­di­ate­ly sug­gests the one from The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood which I quote below; but I fail to see how Mr. Duffield is jus­ti­fied in his use of the phrase “al­most ver­ba­tim.”

“As, in some cases of drunk­en­ness, and in oth­ers of an­i­mal mag­netism, there are two states of con­scious­ness which never clash, but each of which pur­sues its sep­a­rate course as though it were con­tin­u­ous in­stead of bro­ken (thus, if I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again be­fore I can re­mem­ber where), so Miss Twin­kle­ton has two dis­tinct and sep­a­rate phas­es of being.”

It is true that Dick­ens had read Con­fes­sions of a Thug, by Cap­tain Mead­ows Tay­lor, who was a con­trib­u­tor to Dick­ens’s mag­a­zine. The book is a long-wind­ed, pi­caresque tale — some­what rem­i­nis­cent of The Ara­bi­an Nights, — based on Tay­lor’s per­son­al ex­pe­ri­ences in India in the ser­vice of H.H. the Nizam. It con­tains ref­er­ences to opium, and one al­lu­sion to quick­lime. It is per­haps worth men­tion­ing that Tay­lor uses quo­ta­tions from Mac­beth and that there are three ref­er­ences to the same tragedy in The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood. Dick­ens may well have taken from Tay­lor’s story some of the Thug meth­ods — no­tably, mur­der by stran­gu­la­tion, — but I am still by no means con­vinced that John Jasper was an Ori­en­tal, or a mem­ber of a band of Thugs.

As oc­curred a few days be­fore the mur­der of Mon­tague Tigg by Jonas Chuz­zle­wit, a storm of un­prece­dent­ed fury rages on the eve of the dis­ap­pear­ance of Edwin Drood. “But early in the morn­ing, when there is bare­ly enough light in the east to dim the stars, it be­gins to lull.”

A group of idlers watch­ing some work­men oc­cu­pied by an ex­am­i­na­tion of dam­age done to the cathe­dral tower by the tem­pest is shoved aside by Mr. Jasper, who calls loud­ly to Mr. Crisparkle, “at an open win­dow.

“‘Where is my nephew?’

“‘He has not been here. Is he not with you?’

“‘No. He went down to the river last night, with Mr. Neville, to look at the storm, and has not been back. Call Mr. Neville!”

Jasper’s so­lic­i­tude for the where­abouts of his “dear Ned” comes a tri­fle late, but his dra­mat­ic out­burst has its de­sired ef­fect. “There is no more look­ing up at the tower, now.”

Neville is sought and ap­pre­hend­ed soon after leav­ing an inn eight miles dis­tant from Clois­ter­ham. Since he does not sub­mit to cap­ture with­out a strug­gle, his cloth­ing and walk­ing stick be­come blood­stained. No soon­er is he brought be­fore Mr. Crisparkle and Jasper than the lat­ter be­gins to ad­dress him as the man re­spon­si­ble for Edwin’s dis­ap­pear­ance. Where is his nephew, Jasper wants to know.

“I ask you be­cause you were the last per­son in his com­pa­ny, and he is not to be found.”

Neville, be­cause of his com­plete in­no­cence, is ut­ter­ly be­wil­dered by the sit­u­a­tion. He ad­mits that he left the gate­house at mid­night in com­pa­ny with Edwin, that they went to the river to see the ac­tion of the wind there, and that they re­mained for some ten min­utes. They then walked to Mr. Crisparkle’s, where young Drood took leave of Neville and said he was going back to his uncle’s.

Jasper im­me­di­ate­ly draws at­ten­tion to the blood­stains on Nevile’s cloth­ing and stick. De­spite the whol­ly plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for their pres­ence on these ar­ti­cles, Neville is brought be­fore Mr. Sapsea.

My con­clu­sions de­rived from the fore­go­ing hap­pen­ings are that Jasper mur­dered Edwin Drood be­tween 12:30 and 1:00 o’clock on Christ­mas morn­ing, and that the slay­ing took place in Jasper’s rooms at the gate­house. Only after the vi­o­lence of the storm had abat­ed, “early in the morn­ing,” when there was “bare­ly enough light in the east to dim the stars,” could he have re­moved the body to the Sapsea tomb.

Once in the pres­ence of His Honor, Jasper cap­i­tal­izes on the as­cen­dan­cy he has gained over Sapsea. He in­sin­u­ates to such good pur­pose that Neville is the guilty man that Sapsea is about to con­sign young Land­less to jail, when Mr. Crisparkle un­der­takes to be re­spon­si­ble for him and for his ap­pear­ance “when­ev­er de­mand­ed.” Again by in­sin­u­a­tion, Jasper sug­gests “that par­tic­u­lars of the dis. ap­pear­ance should be sent to all out­ly­ing places and to Lon­don, and that plac­ards and ad­ver­tise­ments should be wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed im­plor­ing Edwin Drood, if for any un­known rea­son he had with­drawn him­self from his uncle’s home and so­ci­ety, to take pity on that lov­ing kins­man’s sore be­reave­ment and dis­tress, and some­how in­form him that he was yet alive.” All this is done.

Dur­ing the next two days, an in­ten­sive search for Edwin’s body is made on the river and along its banks. Jasper works with the searchers, and on the evening of the sec­ond day re­turns home to find Mr. Grew­gious wait­ing for him. Rosa has sent for the old lawyer, and in one of the novel’s most dra­mat­ic pas­sages Grew­gious in­forms Jasper that Rosa and Edwin had am­i­ca­bly bro­ken off their en­gage­ment.

This dev­as­tat­ing news is too much for Jasper to bear; with a ter­ri­ble shriek, he faints dead away. Blind­ed by his pas­sion for Rosa, he has killed his nephew, whom he once loved, be­cause of a sit­u­a­tion which was nonex­is­tent when the mur­der was done, Grew­gious, though he says noth­ing, now rec­og­nizes him for the mur­der­er that he is.

When he re­cov­ers con­scious­ness, Jasper strives des­per­ate­ly to make the best of a most dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. At any cost, he must clear him­self of all sus­pi­cion. He there­fore sug­gests that Edwin may have fled of his own free will rather than face the awk­ward­ness of his po­si­tion, re­sult­ing from the ter­mi­na­tion of his long-stand­ing en­gage­ment with Rosa. Dick­ens’s pri­vate notes refer to this stand as “Jasper’s art­ful use of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion on his re­cov­ery.”

He con­tin­ues to urge such a pos­si­bil­i­ty by stat­ing in the pres­ence of Mr. Crisparkle, who has joined them, that “there was no quar­rel or dif­fer­ence be­tween the two young men at their last meet­ing” — which is un­doubt­ed­ly the truth. He now ex­on­er­ates Nevile of all guilt, play­ing the hyp­ocrite not only be­cause he re­al­izes the old lawyer’s shrewd­ness, but be­cause he fears He­le­na Land­less. He be­lieves that his pre­sent pose will make his own po­si­tion stronger.

But now Mr. Crisparkle loos­es an­oth­er thun­der­bolt on Jasper’s head. In his de­sire to be equal­ly hon­est with Grew­gious, the Minor Canon in­forms the old lawyer of his cer­tain­ty that Neville will be cleared of all sus­pi­cion de­spite his hot tem­per, even de­spite the fact that he de­clared him­self to be in love with Rosa.

Though the Minor Canon’s rev­e­la­tion has “turned him paler,” Jasper main­tains his stand. He will cling to his hope that Edwin has dis­ap­peared vol­un­tar­i­ly un­less some trace of him is found “lead­ing to the dread­ful in­fer­ence that he had been done away with.”

Since Jasper, in his now al­most mad­dened state of mind, has cre­at­ed for him­self a loop­hole where­by he may con­tin­ue to pur­sue Neville as Edwin’s mur­der­er, such a trace is soon forth­com­ing. Early on the morn­ing of the next day, Mr. Crisparkle finds on Clois­ter­ham Weir a chain and a gold watch, with the ini­tials “E. D” en­graved on its back. When he dives re­peat­ed­ly with the ex­pec­ta­tion of re­cov­er­ing Edwin’s body, he fi­nal­ly brings up Edwin’s shirt pin.

That Jasper plant­ed these ar­ti­cles on the weir is the only pos­si­ble in­fer­ence to be drawn from the ev­i­dence brought out when Neville is taken once again be­fore Mayor Sapsea. Dick­ens does not make His Honor speak in per­son — which is a pity, — but mere­ly sum­ma­rizes his find­ings. “The watch found at the Weir was chal­lenged by the jew­eller as one he had wound and set for Edwin Drood, at twen­ty min­utes past two on that same af­ter­noon [of the day be­fore Christ­mas]; and it had run down, be­fore being cast into the water; and it was the jew­eller’s pos­i­tive opin­ion that it had never been re­wound.”

Now, the watch had not been cast into the water; it was caught by its chain among the in­ter­stices of the tim­bers form­ing the weir. And Jasper, with the knowl­edge of his crime fresh in mind, had never thought of wind­ing the watch after he had re­moved it from Edwin’s dead body. He had of course re­al­ized that non- cor­ro­sive met­als must not ac­com­pa­ny the corpse to its bier of quick lime.

Sapsea’s find­ings con­tin­ue. “If he had been mur­dered, and so art­ful­ly dis­fig­ured [the ital­ics are mine], or con­cealed, or both, as that the mur­der­er hoped iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to be im­pos­si­ble, ex­cept from some­thing that he wore, as­sured­ly the mur­der­er would seek to re­move from the body the most last­ing, the best known, and the most eas­i­ly rec­og­niz­able, things upon it. Those things would be the watch and shirt-pin.”

“So art­ful­ly dis­fig­ured”! Can any­one doubt that Jasper has been at work on His Honor, or that this in­sin­u­a­tion came from him? What rea­son could Sapsea have to be­lieve that Edwin had been dis­fig­ured, even though mur­dered, and his jew­el­ry re­moved to pre­vent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion? The watch and pin might more log­i­cal­ly have been taken be­cause they were valu­ables. They might well have been thrown on the weir by a pan­ic-strick­en killer in his flight. And why should His Honor em­ploy the phrase “the most last­ing”? But Jasper, hav­ing used quick­lime to en­sure the de­struc­tion of his nephew’s body — as he did, — knows that the re­mains will be dis­fig­ured; and that non­cor­ro­sive ob­jects — the most last­ing — must not be left on the corpse; his knowl­edge of these facts breaks through His Honor’s cir­cum­lo­cu­tions. My con­tention is that he thus over­reach­es him­self and gives him­self away.

Neville is de­tained and re-de­tained, while the search for Edwin Drood goes on. At last young Land­less is set free, be­cause there is no cor­pus delic­ti. But he has to leave Clois­ter­ham under a cloud of sus­pi­cion; a so­cial pari­ah, he goes to Lon­don, where he is be­friend­ed by Mr. Crisparkle and Grew­gious.

John Jasper, a day or two later, shows Mr. Crisparkle a page from his diary worth an­a­lyz­ing. It be­gins: “My dear boy is mur­dered.” This is an as­ser­tion, and well may Jasper make it. “The dis­cov­ery of the watch and shirt-pin con­vinces me that he was mur­dered that night, and that his jew­ellery was taken from him to pre­vent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion by its means.” Here again, Jasper re­veals his own guilt. Sup­pose Edwin has been mur­dered by a man who dashed his brains out with a club — or who stran­gled him — and took the jew­el­ry from him to pre­vent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion by its means. Such a mur­der­er would re­al­ize that the body could still be iden­ti­fied by the fa­cial fea­tures, by its cloth­ing, or by any dis­tin­guish­ing marks which might exist. He would be mad mere­ly to re­move the watch and shirt pin in the hope of pre­vent­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. But Jasper, who has con­cealed his nephew’s body in the Sapsea tomb, where he cov­ered it with quick­lime, knows full well that the re­moval of the jew­el­ry will pre­vent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the body by its means. And I main­tain that here again Jasper be­trays him­self as Edwin’s mur­der­er.

The page con­tin­ues: “All the delu­sive hopes I had found­ed on his sep­a­ra­tion from his be­trothed wife, I give to the winds. They per­ish be­fore this fatal dis­cov­ery. I now swear, and record the oath on this page, That I nev­er­more will dis­cuss this mys­tery with any human crea­ture until I hold the clue to it in my hand.” He re­al­izes that he has al­ready talked too much for his own good — to Hiram Grew­gious. “That I never will relax in my se­cre­cy or in my search. That I will fas­ten the crime of the mur­der of my dear dead boy upon the mur­der­er.” He is think­ing of Neville Land­less, des­tined to be the next vic­tim of that “hor­ri­ble won­der apart.” “And, That I de­vote my­self to his de­struc­tion.”

Here I must di­rect at­ten­tion to the let­ter Dick­ens wrote to John Forster on Fri­day, Au­gust 6, 1869: “1 laid aside the fancy I told you of, and have a very cu­ri­ous and new idea for my new story. Not a com­mu­ni­ca­ble idea (or the in­ter­est of the book would be gone), but a very strong one, though dif­fi­cult to work.”

What was this “very cu­ri­ous and new idea”? I be­lieve it may be summed up in a few sen­tences. A man — John jasper — plans to com mit a per­fect mur­der be­cause he is driv­en to it by one of the old­est and most pow­er­ful mo­tives: pas­sion for a woman. As I have al­ready shown, per­fect­ly in­no­cent per­sons — Grew­gious, Mr. Crisparkle, and Rosa — are in­di­rect­ly re­spon­si­ble for the fact that the mur­der is done at a cer­tain time. The mur­der, suc­cess­ful­ly com­mit­ted if we con­sid­er the pe­ri­od with its in­fan­tile knowl­edge of sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, later proves to have been need­less. Then a per­fect­ly in­no­cent per­son — Minor Canon Crisparkle — un­wit­ting­ly re­stores the sta­tus quo, with Neville Land­less in the po­si­tion of Edwin Drood. The mur­der­er has to begin all over again. So he de­votes him­self to the de­struc­tion of — him­self, as Mr. Mon­tagu Saun­ders per­ceived; for all his sub­se­quent plot­ting to de­stroy his vic­tim will mere­ly make cer­tain his own guilt. The in­no­cent con­trib­u­tors to the first crime will, in vary­ing ways, help to track down the mur­der­er, thus aveng­ing a death for which they them­selves have been part­ly to blame. In­stead of at­tack­ing so­cial evils in his last novel, Dick­ens will have so­ci­ety it­self com­ing down on a lone, of­fend­ing mem­ber. The ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies will be the only ex­ist­ing clue to Edwin’s iden­ti­ty and place of buri­al. John Jasper knows ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing about this ring — as yet. Cer­tain­ly this sum­ma­ry em­bod­ies an idea which might be termed “cu­ri­ous and new,” and in view of Dick­ens’s phys­i­cal and men­tal con­di­tion when he began to de­vel­op it, “dif­fi­cult to work.”

Six months after the dis­ap­pear­ance of Edwin Drood, we find Jasper in Lon­don, going about his dark busi­ness with the in­tent of putting the blame for the mur­der of his nephew square­ly on Neville’s shoul­ders. He is spy­ing upon him, and is in turn spied upon by old Hiram Grew­gious, who has taken an in­ter­est in Neville.

About this same time, he calls upon Rosa when she is alone at the Nuns’ House. School has just closed for the year, and He­le­na Land­less has gone to Lon­don to be with her broth­er. Rosa has never seen Jasper “since the fatal night, ex­cept when she was ques­tioned be­fore the Mayor.” But now, by the sun dial in the gar­den, hyp­o­crit­i­cal­ly dressed in mourn­ing, he is wait­ing to speak to her. “The old hor­ri­ble feel­ing of being com­pelled by him, as­serts its hold upon her.”

Jasper tells her that he has been wait­ing to be sum­moned back as her “faith­ful mu­sic-mas­ter.” ‘When she in­forms him that she has left off that study, he in­sists that it has been but dis­con­tin­ued, and up- braids her for not hav­ing loved Edwin in the right way. When she in­sists that she will study no more with him, and that she does not care to be sub­ject­ed to fur­ther ques­tion­ing, he tells her that he will con­fess —

“‘I do not wish to hear you, sir,’ cries Rosa, ris­ing.”

He threat­ens that she must lis­ten to him, or she will do more harm to oth­ers than she can ever set right.

“Sit down, and there will be no mighty won­der in your mu­sic- mas­ter s lean­ing idly against a pedestal and speak­ing with you, re­mem­ber­ing all that has hap­pened, and our shares in it.’”

He is ac­cus­ing her of hav­ing been re­spon­si­ble for Edwin’s dis ap­pear­ance be­cause she never re­vealed to her fiancé the love she knew his uncle bore her. And his use of “our” is an ad­mis­sion that he, too, is cul­pa­ble.

He now lays bare to her his mad pas­sion, in­ten­si­fy­ing it by the most ex­trav­a­gant terms. “ — In the dis­taste­ful work of the day, in the wake­ful mis­ery of the night, gird­ed by sor­did re­al­i­ties, or wan­der­ing through Par­adis­es and Hells of vi­sions into which I rushed, car­ry­ing your image in my arms, I loved you madly!”

With great in­dig­na­tion, Rosa re­bukes him, ac­cus­ing him of being false to his nephew and of caus­ing her such fear that she dared not open Edwin’s eyes.

“How beau­ti­ful you are!” is his re­join­der. “You are more beau­ti­ful in anger than re­pose. I don’t ask you for your love; give me your­self and your ha­tred; give me your­self and that pret­ty rage; give me your­self and that en­chant­ing scorn; it will be enough for me.”

The bar­ri­ers are down at last; the man re­veals to her in all its naked­ness the lust that burns with­in him.

Forc­ing her to re­main de­spite her tears, he tells her that, had the ties be­tween him and his nephew been less strong, he might even have swept Edwin from his side when she fa­vored him. Now he has heard that Neville Land­less loves her, and that is an in­ex­pi­able of­fense in his eyes. He has de­vot­ed him­self to the de­struc­tion of Edwin’s mur­der­er and will work in si­lence until he holds the clue with which he may en­tan­gle that mur­der­er as in a net.

“I have since worked pa­tient­ly to wind and wind it round him; and it is slow­ly wind­ing as I speak.”

Rosa re­torts that his be­lief in the crim­i­nal­i­ty of Mr. Land­less is evil.

“Cir­cum­stances may ac­cu­mu­late so strong­ly even against an in­no­cent man, that di­rect­ed, sharp­ened, and point­ed, they may slay him. One want­ing link dis­cov­ered by per­se­ver­ance against a guilty man proves his guilt, how­ev­er slight its ev­i­dence be­fore, and he dies. Young Land­less stands in dead­ly peril ei­ther way.”

Since he is seek­ing to ter­ri­fy Rosa, the sec­ond sen­tence of his speech is meant to im­press her even more strong­ly than the first. He may yet de­stroy Neville, even though in­no­cent, if he can con­vince Sapsea of his guilt; but if he can find some means to prove it — some tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence that will damn him, — there is not the faintest ray of hope for Land­less! Bow lit­tle does he re­al­ize that he fore­tells his own fate; how lit­tle does he dream that the ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies will be the “one want­ing link” he craves, the link which will brand him, not young Land­less, a mur­der­er to all the world!

Rosa dis­claims any af­fec­tion for Neville, protest­ing that he has never ad­dressed him­self to her in any way.

Jasper now of­fers her a bribe typ­i­cal of his vil­lainy. If she will ac­cept his love, he will re­nounce his pur­suit of Neville; her dear friend He­le­na will pre­serve her peace of mind, her good name, and the shad­ow of the gal­lows will be re­moved from her. He, even casts away his fi­deli­ty to Edwin after death; the love Neville bears Rosa; his labors of six months in the cause of “just” vengeance.

“There is my past and my pre­sent wast­ed life. There is the des­o­la­tion of my heart and soul. There is my peace; there is my de­spair. Stamp them into the dust; so that you take me, were it even mor­tal­ly hat­ing me!”

Thus he con­cludes. Rosa is so stunned and ter­ri­fied that she moves swift­ly away from him.

“Not a word of this to any one,” he warns her, “or it will bring down the blow, as cer­tain­ly as night fol­lows day.”

With one last mad dec­la­ra­tion of his pas­sion, m which he swears that she will never be rid of him, that he will pur­sue her even to death, he leaves her.

Rosa faints as she goes up­stairs to her room. Later, when she has re­cov­ered, she flees to Lon­don to her old guardian, Grew­gious. Ear­li­er, I have shown how her plight — as well as that of Nevile and his sis­ter — so move the old lawyer that he takes an ac­tive part in a cam­paign to track down Jasper and prove him the mur­der­er of his nephew. To do so, he goes to Clois­ter­ham dis­guised as Dick Datch­ery, leav­ing Rosa in the care of Miss Twin­kle­ton, who comes to Lon­don to be with his ward. Rosa’s hor­ri­ble or­deal with Jasper is soon dis­pelled from her mind by her in­ter­est in Neville’s friend, Lieu­tenant Tar­tar, who re­turns that in­ter­est in full mea­sure.

And so the forces of so­ci­ety begin to range them­selves against the lone of­fend­er, for such has Jasper be­come. “Im­pas­sive, moody, soli­tary, res­o­lute, so con­cen­trat­ed on one idea, and on its at­ten­dant fixed pur­pose, that he would share it with no fel­low crea­ture, he lived apart from human life.” “The spir­it of the man was in moral ac­cor­dance or in­ter­change with noth­ing around him.”

Again, when the wicked man tur­neth away from his wicked­ness that he hath com­mit­ted, and doeth that which is law­ful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” That is the Law and the Prophet, but Jasper has not heed­ed them. And so he pur­sues his way to in­evitable de­struc­tion.

The verse from Ezekiel moves me to won­der how far Dick­ens may have iden­ti­fied him­self with the mur­der­er whose mind — that “hor­ri­ble won­der apart” — he was study­ing. Is it not con­ceiv­able that in his last novel Dick­ens was tak­ing him­self to task for hav­ing flout­ed the moral code of his day, for hav­ing sep­a­rat­ed from his wife and bro­ken up his home be­cause he — like John Jasper — be­came in­fat­u­at­ed with a love­ly young woman? If such a con­cep­tion is im­pos­si­ble, why did Dick­ens quote the verse in the ab­bre­vi­at­ed form which ap­pears in the open­ing chap­ter? Did he set it down only in part be­cause of his re­al­iza­tion that it ap­plied to him? It is a verse re­splen­dent with hope and with the promise of for­give­ness. Nei­ther that hope nor that promise of fore­give­ness could apply to Jasper, in whose tor­tured soul there was no spark of con­tri­tion. But the words of the prophet must have had mean­ing for the man who could write — among the last he was ever to set down on paper — the fol­low­ing lines: “Changes of glo­ri­ous light from mov­ing boughs, songs of birds, scents from gar­dens, woods, and fields — or, rather, from the one great gar­den of the whole cul­ti­vat­ed is­land in its yield­ing time — pen­e­trate into the Cathe­dral, sub­due its earthy odour, and preach the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life.”

Al­most our last glimpse of John Jasper finds him in Lon­don on a hot, dusty evening, hur­ry­ing to the opium den where we first met him. His need for the drug ended, for a time, with Edwin’s death. Now he craves it again be­cause Rosa has fled, be­cause he plans to de­stroy Nevile. The old Opium Woman wel­comes him like a long-lost stranger, but she seems more in­ter­est­ed in ply­ing him with ques­tions than in serv­ing his needs; she has seen the “plac­ards and ad­ver­tise­ments” which ap­peared in Lon­don after his nephew dis­ap­peared. How­ev­er, he is soon under the in­flu­ence of the drug — which does not taste the same, and now ap­pears to have a slow­er re­ac­tion upon him. All of which leads me to be­lieve that the old Opium Woman has weak­ened her mix­ture, for a pur­pose of her own.

“Sup­pose you had some­thing in your mind; some­thing you were going to do,” Jasper says to her.

“Yes, deary; some­thing I was going to do?”

Should you do it in your fancy, when you were lying here doing this? ”

“Over and over again.”

He is think­ing of Neville Land­less, and of the de­struc­tion he must bring upon him.

“Just like me!” he goes on. “I did it over and over again. I have done it hun­dreds of thou­sands of times in this room.

Now his opi­um-drugged thoughts have re­vert­ed to Edwin.

“It’s to be hoped it was pleas­ant to do, deary.”

“It was pleas­ant to do! — It was a jour­ney, a dif­fi­cult and dan­ger out jour­ney. — A haz­ardous and per­ilous jour­ney, over abysses where a slip would be de­struc­tion. Look down, look down! You see what lies at the bot­tom there? ”

He fan­cies him­self on the cathe­dral tower, point­ing to the Sapsea tomb far below in the church­yard.

“I did it so often, and through such vast ex­pans­es of time, that when it was re­al­ly done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so soon.”

This is a vir­tu­al con­fes­sion to the mur­der of Edwin Drood.

“Hark!” He hears the cathe­dral bells sound­ing the half hour. “Time and place are both at hand.” Half an hour after mid­night on Christ­mas morn­ing — and he and Edwin are to­geth­er in the gate-house.

“No strug­gle, no con­scious­ness of peril, no en­treaty — and yet I never saw that be­fore.”

He stran­gled Edwin from be­hind, with his great black scarf. But in his dreams of the past he could not vi­su­al­ize the ac­tu­al ap­pear­ance of a dead body. Now he knows what it looks like.

“Look at it! Look what a poor, mean, mis­er­able thing it is! That must be real. It’s over.”

It is real — no fig­ment of his hal­lu­ci­na­tions now.

He laps­es into obliv­ion, while the Opium Woman con­grat­u­lates her­self that she may have learned the se­cret of how to make him talk.

When he de­parts at last, the old hag fol­lows him, and hav­ing found out that he in­tends to re­turn to Clois­ter­ham at six that same evening, goes to the cathe­dral city be­fore him. There she awaits his ar­rival, then pur­sues him to the gate­house, where she meets Datch­ery. In the course of their con­ver­sa­tion, Datch­ery learns that she met and talked with Edwin on that last Christ­mas Eve. The man who is track­ing Jasper down tells the woman she may see the choir­mas­ter in the cathe­dral the very next morn­ing. Then he seeks Deputy, with whom he has struck up an ac­quain­tance, to give him the task of search­ing out the crea­ture’s ad­dress.

The next day dawns, and from a point of van­tage in the cathe­dral Datch­ery sees the Opium Woman shake her fist at Mr. Jasper, hug her­self in her lean arms, and then shake both fists at the choir­mas­ter.

That is our last glimpse of John Jasper; for death stilled for­ev­er the hand of the man who was weav­ing the threads of his des­tiny into their final pat­tern. Charles Dick­ens was strick­en on the very day when he was com­plet­ing the chap­ter I have just been dis­cussing. A few de­duc­tions based on my pro­longed in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the novel as he left it may serve to bring this study to a close.

Hiram Grew­gious, alias Dick Datch­ery, knows now why Edwin Drood never re­turned the ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies: he was pre­vent­ed from doing so be­cause he died in Clois­ter­ham, mur­dered by his uncle. Grew­gious re­al­izes also that the Opium Woman is going to black­mail Jasper, for she, too, sus­pects him of the mur­der of his nephew. If he were to learn, through her, of the pres­ence of the ring on Edwin’s per­son, he would re­veal the place where the body lay buried in an at­tempt to re­trieve the ev­i­dence that damns him. Prior to this de­noue­ment, how­ev­er, He­le­na Land­less, dressed in her broth­er’s clothes and play­ing his part, will con­front Jasper and will try to make him in­crim­i­nate him­self through the ex­er­cise of her hyp­not­ic power. This at­tempt will, I feel cer­tain, be un­suc­cess­ful.

When Jasper is fi­nal­ly sur­prised at the Sapsea tomb, he will try to es­cape by way of the cathe­dral tower, which he will as­cend to com­mit sui­cide. Neville Land­less will be mor­tal­ly wound­ed in pur­suit of him, and will die after learn­ing that his in­no­cence has been es­tab­lished. Tar­tar and Mr. Crisparkle will take Jasper alive. Then will come his con­fes­sion from the death cell, given as though he were speak­ing of some other per­son. And in­deed he will be doing just that, for the “hor­ri­ble won­der apart” will now be so warped and twist­ed by all its owner has been through that it will no longer be­long to the man known in Clois­ter­ham as John Jasper.

He who was re­spect­ed as lay pre­cen­tor and choir­mas­ter will be hanged by the neck until dead — which is just an­oth­er form of stran­gu­la­tion. He will be dumped into an un­marked grave, where his body will be cov­ered with quick­lime. Jus­tice, both man-made and po­et­ic, will have been done, for so he treat­ed his nephew, whom he once loved. The wheel will have come full cir­cle.

Out of the depths of his de­spair and shame, Oscar Wilde wrote “The Bal­lad of Read­ing Gaol.” With the al­ter­ation of but a sin­gle word, cer­tain stan­zas of that trag­ic poem make a fit­ting epi­taph for John Jasper — mur­der­er.

“In Maid­stone gaol by Maid­stone town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In a burn­ing wind­ing-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
In si­lence let him lie:
No need to waste the fool­ish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.”