7. Datchery Revealed

The iden­ti­ty of Datch­ery isn’t dif­fi­cult to fath­om. Datch­ery is un­ac­quaint­ed with Clois­ter­ham, so, at a stroke, every can­di­date is elim­i­nat­ed ex­cept Baz­zard and Tar­tar. Baz­zard is sulky and dis­oblig­ing and clear­ly not the like­able Datch­ery, so Datch­ery has to be Tar­tar. (Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Baz­zard’s sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance from the text is too ob­vi­ous a ploy, lacks in­ge­nu­ity, and to have Datch­ery re­vealed as Baz­zard — a minor, unlov­able char­ac­ter — would be un­sat­is­fy­ing for the read­er.)

As Rosa’s fu­ture hus­band, Dick­ens was bound to as­sign Tar­tar a major role in Jasper’s un­mask­ing, and by mak­ing him Datch­ery that’s what he did.

Even Tar­tar’s name is sug­ges­tive. He’s a for­mer sailor and the nick­name for a sailor is tar, so the fact that he’s Tar-tar sug­gests a dou­ble iden­ti­ty, that he’s two men in one.

Fur­ther­more, in Chap­ter 21 we learn that ‘Mr Tar­tar had a yacht’, mak­ing him a yachter. Well, re­ar­range the let­ters of yachter (as Mr Tar­tar him­self did) and stick a cap­i­tal D (for de­tec­tive) in front and guess whose name you get?

In who­dunits it usu­al­ly ap­pears im­pos­si­ble for the killer to have com­mit­ted the mur­der. When the deed was done they’ve a wa­ter­tight alibi. This is the method Dick­ens uses to throw read­er sus­pi­cion off Tar­tar. Datch­ery is snoop­ing about Clois­ter­ham be­fore Tar­tar has even heard of John Jasper. Or so it seems. In fact, be­tween Chap­ter 12 and 13, Neville tells him the whole story.

The na­ture of their in­tro­duc­tion es­tab­lish­es an im­me­di­ate in­ti­ma­cy be­tween them, and need­ing some­one to con­fide in, Neville prob­a­bly blurts out his tale at their very next meet­ing. (Note how quick­ly he re­lates his whole his­to­ry to Crisparkle.)

Under or­di­nary cir­cum­stance no more would fol­low, but, by a high­ly sus­pi­cious co­in­ci­dence, Mr Tar­tar just hap­pens to be ‘an idle man’ in need of oc­cu­pa­tion. And the chance to play de­tec­tive, and right a wrong, would nat­u­ral­ly ap­peal.

But would he go to such lengths for a man he’s just met — one who could be mad or even a killer? Prob­a­bly not. That’s why Dick­ens makes Tar­tar and Crisparkle schoolfel­lows. On hear­ing the name of Neville’s pro­tec­tor, and hav­ing es­tab­lished that this must be his old friend and mas­ter, Tar­tar would take on the job like a shot.

But why not re­veal him­self to Crisparkle? Be­cause he was going as a spy and would be in­volved in de­cep­tion. ‘False pre­tence not being in the Minor Canon's na­ture’ to in­volve him in the plan would be fraught with dan­ger.

An ad­di­tion­al clue point­ing to Tar­tar as Datch­ery is that Tar­tar recog­nis­es Crisparkle in Lon­don. Is it like­ly that see­ing a (hat­ted) man, not at close quar­ters, en­ter­ing a house, he’d im­me­di­ate­ly iden­ti­fy him as a friend he last saw when he was just a boy of about eight or nine al­most two decades be­fore? Cer­tain­ly Crisparkle doesn’t recog­nise him, even face to face and after prompt­ing. It’s only after a point­ed ref­er­ence to their old re­la­tion­ship that he’s able to place him. As Datch­ery, how­ev­er, Tar­tar would have made a point of sneak­ing a look at his old friend in Clois­ter­ham and would in­stant­ly iden­ti­fy him again in Lon­don. (It’s main­ly be­cause of Crisparkle that Tar­tar adopts a pseudonym and dis­guise.)

The rea­son Tar­tar doesn’t make known his al­liance with Neville, then, when meet­ing up with Mr Grew­gious and the oth­ers, is that Crisparkle is too hon­est to be trust­ed. Fur­ther­more, Neville — be­fore re­lat­ing his story — would doubt­less have sworn him to si­lence. Tar­tar would also look for­ward to the plea­sure of sur­pris­ing Crisparkle at the end.

Nor is Tar­tar lying when he says he’s all at sea and doesn’t fol­low the con­ver­sa­tion. He knows noth­ing of re­cent events sur­round­ing Rosa or that Jasper is ac­tive­ly spy­ing on Neville. In the con­ver­sa­tion we over­hear, Jasper’s name is never men­tioned. Sus­pi­cious­ly, Mr Grew­gious only refers to Jasper as “our local friend”.

Tar­tar read­i­ly agrees to He­le­na’s sug­ges­tion that he should call reg­u­lar­ly on her broth­er — and why not? Lit­tle was to be gained by watch­ing Jasper dur­ing the day. Only after dark was there like­ly to be any ac­tion. Mak­ing the trip back and forth be­tween Clois­ter­ham and Lon­don would be time-con­sum­ing, but Tar­tar has time on his hands to con­sume.

Dick­ens needs to show that mak­ing this daily jour­ney is pos­si­ble, so he spec­i­fies the jour­ney time pre­cise­ly. Jasper is to leave his Lon­don lodg­ings for Clois­ter­ham, Princess Puffer is told, “at six this evening”, and is amongst the ‘ar­riv­ing om­nibus pas­sen­gers’ at nine o’clock. A three-hour jour­ney, then, twice a day. Per­fect­ly fea­si­ble (by catch­ing the first train, as Crisparkle shows, he can reach his flat at ten o’clock ex­act­ly) but it would keep Tar­tar fully oc­cu­pied — which is why Rosa, after their first trip up the river, isn’t taken on oth­ers. Quite in­con­ceiv­able if Tar­tar wasn’t being kept so busy.

It’s also note­wor­thy that on the day that Datch­ery meets Princess Puffer in Clois­ter­ham, Jasper vis­its her in Lon­don. Why didn’t Datch­ery fol­low Jasper if he was keep­ing a per­ma­nent eye on him? The an­swer, of course, is that he wasn’t. Dick Datch­ery had al­ready left for Lon­don in order to reap­pear as Tar­tar (whose Chris­tian name, I sus­pect — why else keep it back? — would later be re­vealed as Richard).

A final point: the ‘Shad­ow On The Sun-Dial’ chap­ter was orig­i­nal­ly in­tend­ed to pre­cede ‘A Set­tler In Clois­ter­ham’ (A shad­ow on John Jasper), so that ‘At about this time a stranger ap­peared in Clois­ter­ham’ meant at about the time of Rosa’s meet­ing with Jasper.

Tar­tar tells Crisparkle that he’d met Neville “only with­in a day or so”, so the timetable of events must have been this: Tar­tar met Neville late at night, was told about Jasper next morn­ing, trav­elled down to Clois­ter­ham at lunchtime and re­turned that night. He then greet­ed Crisparkle next morn­ing.

But is there a prob­lem with this? After all, on the same day that Tar­tar met Neville, Crisparkle com­forts Neville with the thought of his sis­ter being with him “next week”. Yet when Datch­ery ar­rives in Clois­ter­ham the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon, He­le­na has al­ready left. She could have de­part­ed that morn­ing, but for this to be ‘next week’, the pre­vi­ous day must have been a Sat­ur­day. Dick­ens would have want­ed Jasper to con­front Rosa in the gar­den on a Sun-day, so it ties in with that, but is there any other proof?

Well, ‘full half a year had come and gone’ since Jasper showed Crisparkle the last entry in his diary at the tail end of De­cem­ber (prob­a­bly the 29th) which sug­gests that the story re­sumes on July 1, neat­ly di­vid­ing the year in half. And when Christ­mas Day falls on a Sun­day as it does in Drood, July 1 the fol­low­ing year is a Sat­ur­day (Leap Years apart).