Edmund L. Pearson: Sherlock Holmes and Drood Mystery

Глава из книги "The Secret Book" (1914)

Dickens's Secret Book  

"Per­haps," re­marked Bron­son, mild­ly, "I may go on, now."

A week had elapsed, and this was an­oth­er meet­ing of the Club.

"Go right ahead," said Tilden, hearti­ly; "you won't dis­turb us a bit."

Tilden and Lenox were play­ing pi­quet in a comer.

"But I," plain­tive­ly ex­claimed Bron­son, "have pre­pared a paper for this evening."

"That's right," said Sayles, who was the sec­re­tary, "it was Bron­son's evening."

Ry­er­son made a satir­i­cal salaam, and fold­ed up his pa­pers.

"Say no more," said he, "I with­draw."

"Of course," Bron­son con­tin­ued, "I wouldn't—"

"Don't apol­o­gize. It will only make mat­ters worse. I am al­ready of­fend­ed be­yond re­pair."

Pre­tend­ing to be in a huff, he com­menced to poke the fire.

"Last win­ter," began Bron­son again, "I read *The Mys­tery of Edwin Drood' for the first time. How many of you have read it?'*

Only three out of the eight of us had done so.

"That's the usual pro­por­tion. You fight shy of it be­cause it isn't fin­ished, I sup­pose. I had al­ways let it alone for that rea­son, but I find that I had missed a great deal of fim. Of course, I be­came an ad­vo­cate of one of the the­o­ries as to its so­lu­tion — ev­ery­one does — and I have put it into the guise of a Sher­lock Holmes story. Ev­ery­body feels free to get gay with Sher­lock, so I needn't apol­o­gize. Here it is." So say­ing, Bron­son read


"Wat­son," said Sher­lock Holmes, beam­ing at me across the break­fast table, "can you de­ci­pher char­ac­ter from hand­writ­ing?"

He held an en­ve­lope to­ward me as he spoke. I took the en­ve­lope and glanced at the su­per­scrip­tion. It was ad­dressed to Holmes at our lodg­ing in Baker Street. I tried to re­mem­ber some­thing of an ar­ti­cle I had read on the sub­ject of hand­writ­ing.

"The writ­er of this," I said, "was a mod­est self-ef­fac­ing per­son, and one of wide knowl­edge, and con­sid­er­able abil­i­ty. He — "

"Ex­cel­lent, Wat­son, ex­cel­lent! Re­al­ly, you outdo your­self. Your read­ing is quite Wat­so­ni­an, in fact. I fear, how­ev­er, you are a bit astray as to his mod­esty, knowl­edge, and so on. As a mat­ter of fact, this let­ter is from Mr. Thomas Sapsea."

"The fa­mous Mayor of Clois­ter­ham?"

"Quite so. And for pom­pos­i­ty, egre­gious con­ceit cou­pled with down­right ig­no­rance, he has not his peer in Eng­land. So you did not score a bull's-eye there, my dear fel­low."

"But what does he want of you?" I asked, will­ing to change the sub­ject. "He isn't going to en­gage you to solve the mys­tery of Edwin Drood?"

"That is pre­cise­ly what he is doing. He is all at sea in the mat­ter. Come, what do you say to a nm down to Clois­ter­ham? We can look into this mat­ter to oblige the mayor, and take a ram­ble through the cathe­dral. I'm told they have some very fine gar­goyles."

An hour later, we were seat­ed in a train for Clois­ter­ham. Holmes had been look­ing through the morn­ing pa­pers. Now he threw them aside, and turned to me.

"Have you fol­lowed this Drood case?" he asked.

I replied that I had read many of the ac­counts and some of the spec­u­la­tions on the sub­ject.

"I have not fol­lowed it as at­ten­tive­ly as I should have liked," he re­turned; "the re­cent lit­tle af­fair of Colonel Raspopoff and the cza­ri­na's ru­bies has oc­cu­pied me thor­ough­ly of late. Sup­pose you go over the chief facts — it will help clear my mind."

"The facts are these," I said. "Edwin Drood, a young en­gi­neer about to leave for Egypt, had two at­trac­tions in Clois­ter­ham. One was his af­fi­anced wife — a, young school­girl, named Miss Rosa. Bud. The other was his de­vot­ed uncle and guardian, Mr. John Jasper. The lat­ter is choir-mas­ter of the cathe­dral. There were, it seems, two clouds over his hap­pi­ness. One of these was the fact that his be­trothal to Miss Bud — an ar­range­ment made by their re­spec­tive par­ents while Edwin and Rosa were small chil­dren — was not whol­ly to the lik­ing of ei­ther of the prin­ci­pals. They had, in­deed, come to an agree­ment, only a few days be­fore Edwin Brood's dis­ap­pear­ance, to ter­mi­nate the en­gage­ment. They part­ed, it is be­lieved, on friend­ly, if not af­fec­tion­ate terms.

"The other dif­fi­cul­ty lay in the pres­ence, in Clois­ter­ham, of one Neville Land­less — a young stu­dent from Cey­lon. Land­less has, it seems, a strain of Ori­en­tal blood in his na­ture — he is of dark com­plex­ion and fiery tem­per. Ac­tu­al quar­rels had oc­curred be­tween the two, with some vi­o­lence on Land­less's part. To re­store them to friend­ship, how­ev­er, Mr. Jasper, the uncle of Edwin, ar­ranged for a din­ner in his rooms on Christ­mas Eve, at which they were to be the only guests. The din­ner took place, ev­ery­thing passed off am­i­ca­bly, and the two left, to­geth­er, late in the evening, to walk to the river, and view the great storm which was rag­ing. After that they part­ed — ac­cord­ing to Land­less — and Drood has never been seen again. His uncle raised the alarm next morn­ing. Land­less was de­tained, and ques­tioned, while a thor­ough search was made for the body of Drood. Be­yond the dis­cov­ery of his watch and pin in the weir, noth­ing has been found. Land­less had to be re­leased for lack of ev­i­dence, but the feel­ing in Clois­ter­ham was so strong against him that he had to leave. He is thought to be in Lon­don."

"H'm," re­marked Holmes, "who found the watch and pin?"

"A Mr. Crisparkle, minor canon of the cathe­dral. Land­less was liv­ing in his house, and read­ing with him. I may add that Land­less has a sis­ter — Miss He­le­na — who has also come to Lon­don."

"H'm," said Holmes. "Well, here we are at Clois­ter­ham. We can now pur­sue our in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the spot. We will go to see Mr. Sapsea, the mayor."

Mr. Sapsea proved to be ex­act­ly the pompous Tory jack­ass that Holmes had de­scribed. He had never been out of Clois­ter­ham, and his firm con­vic­tion of the hope­less in­fe­ri­or­i­ty of all the world out­side Eng­land was so thor­ough­ly provin­cial that I sus­pect­ed him of some con­nec­tion with the "Sat­ur­day Re­view." He was strong in his be­lief that young Neville Land­less had mur­dered Drood and thrown his body into the river. And his strongest rea­son for this be­lief lay in the com­plex­ion of Land­less.

"It is un-En­glish, Mr. Holmes," said he, "it's un-En­glish and when I see a face that is un-En­glish, 1 know what to sus­pect of that face."

"Quite so," said Holmes; "I sup­pose that ev­ery­thing was done to find the body?"

"Ev­ery­thing, Mr. Holmes, ev­ery­thing that my — er — knowl­edge of the world could pos­si­bly sug­gest. Mr. Jasper was un­wea­ried in his ef­forts. In fact he was worn out by his ex­er­tions."

"No doubt his grief at the dis­ap­pear­ance of his nephew had some­thing to do with that, as well." "No doubt of it at all.'' "Land­less, I hear, is in Lon­don?*' "So I un­der­stand, sir, so I un­der­stand. But Mr. Crisparkle, his for­mer tutor, has given me— in my ca­pac­i­ty as mag­is­trate — as­sur­ances that he can be pro­duced at any mo­ment. At pre­sent he can be foxmd by ap­ply­ing to Mr. Grew­gious, at Sta­ple Inn. Mr. Grew­gious is a guardian of the young lady to whom Edwin Drood was be­trothed."

Holmes made a note of Mr. Grew­gious's name and ad­dress on his shirt-cuff. We then rose to de­part.

"I see" said the mayor, "that you are think­ing of pay­ing a call on this un-En­glish per­son in Lon­don. That is where you will find a so­lu­tion of the mys­tery, I can as­sure you."

"It is prob­a­ble that I shall have oc­ca­sion to run up ta Lon­don this evening," said Holmes, "though I be­lieve that Dr. Wat­son and I will stroll about Clois­ter­ham a bit, first. I want to in­spect your gar­goyles."

When we were out­side, Holmes's ear­li­est re­mark was, "But I think we had bet­ter have a lit­tle chat with Mr. John Jasper."

We were di­rect­ed to Mr. Jasper's rooms, in the gate­house, by a sin­gu­lar­ly ob­nox­ious boy, whom we found in the street, fling­ing stones at the passers-by.

"That's Jasper's,'" said he, point­ing for an in­stant to­ward the arch, and then pro­ceed­ing with his malev­o­lent pas­time.

"Thanks," said Holmes, short­ly, giv­ing the imp six­pence, "here's some­thing for you. And here," he con­tin­ued, re­vers­ing the boy over his knee, and giv­ing him a sound spank­ing, "here is some­thing else for you."

On in­quiry it ap­peared that Mr. Jasper was at home. He would see us, said the land­la­dy, but she added that "the poor gen­tle­man was not well."

"In­deed?" said Holmes. "What's the mat­ter?"

"He do be in a sort of daze, I think."

"Well, well, this gen­tle­man is a doc­tor — per­haps he can pre­scribe."

And with that we went up to Mr. Jasper's room. That gen­tle­man had re­cov­ered, ap­par­ent­ly, from his daze, for we heard him chant­ing choir music, as we stood out­side the door. Holmes, whose love for music is very keen, was en­rap­tured, and in­sist­ed on stand­ing for sev­er­al mo­ments, while the low and sweet tones of the choir-mas­ter's voice, ac­com­pa­nied by the notes of a piano, float­ed out to us. At last we knocked and the singer ad­mit­ted us.

Mr. Jasper was a dark-whiskered gen­tle­man who dwelt in a gloomy sort of room. He had, him­self, a gloomy and re­served man­ner. Holmes in­tro­duced us both, and in­formed Mr. Jasper that he was in Clois­ter­ham at the re­quest of the mayor, Mr. Sapsea, to look up some points in con­nec­tion with the dis­ap­pear­ance of Edwin Drood.

"Mean­ing his mur­der?'* in­quired Mr. Jasper.

"The word I used," said Holmes, "was dis­ap­pear­ance."

"The word I used," re­turned the other, "was mur­der. But I must beg to be ex­cused from all dis­cus­sion of the death of my dear boy. I have taken a vow to dis­cuss it with no one, until the as­sas­sin is brought to jus­tice."

"I hope," said Holmes, "that if there is an as­sas­sin, I may have the good for­tune — "

"I hope so, too. Mean­while —" and Mr. Jasper moved to­ward the door, as if to usher us out. Holmes tried to ques­tion him about the events of Christ­mas Eve, prior to the young man's dis­ap­pear­ance, but Mr. Jasper said that he had made his state­ment be­fore the mayor, and had noth­ing to add.

"Sure­ly," said Holmes, "I have seen you be­fore, Mr. Jasper?"

Mr. Jasper thought not.

"I feel al­most pos­i­tive," said my friend; "in Lon­don, now — you come to Lon­don at times, I take it?"

Per­haps. But he had never had the plea­sure of meet­ing Mr. Holmes. He was quite sure. Quite.

We de­part­ed, and as we strolled down the High Street, Holmes asked me if I would ob­ject to spend­ing the night in Clois­ter­ham, "I shall re­join you to­mor­row," he added.

"But are you going away?"

"Yes, to Lon­don. I am going to fol­low Mr. Sapsea's ad­vice," he added with a smile.

"I thought you want­ed to see the gar­goyles," I ob­ject­ed.

"So I did. And do you know, my dear fel­low, I be­lieve I have seen one of the most in­ter­est­ing of them all."

Holmes's re­mark was en­tire­ly enig­mat­ic to me, and while I was still puz­zling over it, he waved his hand and en­tered the on­mibus for the sta­tion. Left thus alone in Clois­ter­ham, I went to the Crozi­er, where I se­cured a room for the night. In pass­ing the gate­house I no­ticed a cu­ri­ous look­ing man with his hat in his hand, look­ing at­ten­tive­ly at Mr. Jasper's win­dow. He had, I ob­served, white hair, which streamed in the wind. Later in the af­ter­noon, hav­ing dropped in at the cathe­dral to hear the ves­per ser­vice, I saw the same man. He was watch­ing the choir­mas­ter, Mr. Jasper, with pro­found scruti­ny. This made me un­easy. How did I know but what an­oth­er plot, like that which had been hatched against the nephew, was on foot against the uncle? Seat­ed in the bar at the Crozi­er, after din­ner, I found him again. He will­ing­ly en­tered into con­ver­sa­tion with me, and an­nounced him­self as one Mr. Datch­ery — "an idle buffer, liv­ing on his means." He was in­ter­est­ed in the Drood case and very will­ing to talk about it. I drew him out as much as I could, and then re­tired to my room to think it over.

That he wore a dis­guise seemed dear to me. His hair looked like a wig. If he was in dis­guise, who could he be? I thought over all the per­sons in any way con­nect­ed with the case, when sud­den­ly the name of Miss He­le­na Land­less oc­curred to me. In­stant­ly I was con­vinced that it must be she. The very im­prob­a­bil­i­ty of the idea fas­ci­nat­ed me from the start. What more un­like­ly than that a young Cey­lonese girl should pass her­self off for an el­der­ly En­glish man, sit­ting in bars and drink­ing el­der­ly En­glish drinks? The im­prob­a­ble is usu­al­ly true, I re­mem­bered. Then I re­called that I had heard that Miss Land­less, as a child, used to dress up as a boy. I was now pos­i­tive about the mat­ter.

I was on hand to meet Holmes when he re­turned the next day. He had two men with him and he in­tro­duced them as Mr. Tar­tar and Mr. Neville Land­less. I looked with in­ter­est at the sus­pect­ed man, and then tried to have speech with Holmes. But he drew me apart.

"These gen­tle­men," said he, "are going at once to Mr. Crisparkle's. They will re­main there until tonight, when I ex­pect to have need of them. You and I will re­turn to your hotel."

On the way I told him about Mr. Datch­ery, and my sus­pi­cions about that per­son. He lis­tened ea­ger­ly and said that he must have speech with Datch­ery with­out delay. When I told him of my be­lief that Datch­ery was the sis­ter of Land­less, in dis­guise, Holmes clapped me on the back, and ex­claimed:

"Ex­cel­lent, Wat­son, ex­cel­lent! Quite in your old vein!"

I flushed with pride at this high praise from the great de­tec­tive. He left me at the Crozi­er, while he went forth to find Datch­ery, and also, he said, to have a word with Mr. Jasper. I sup­posed that he was about to warn the choir-mas­ter of the fact that he was watched.

Holmes re­turned to the inn in cap­i­tal spir­its.

"We shall have our work cut out for us. Tonight, Wat­son," said he, "and per­haps we will have an­oth­er look at the gar­goyles."

Dur­ing din­ner he would talk of noth­ing ex­cept bee-keep­ing. He con­versed on this topic, in­deed, until long after we had fin­ished our meal, and while we sat smok­ing in the bar. About eleven, an an­cient man, called Dur­dles, came in, look­ing for Mis­ter Holmes.

"Mr. Jasper he's a-comin' down the stair, sir," said he.

"Good!" ex­claimed Holmes, "come, Wat­son, we must make haste. This may be a se­ri­ous busi­ness. Now, Dur­dles!"

The man called Dur­dles led us rapid­ly, and by back ways, to the church­yard. Here he showed us where we could stand, hid­den be­hind a wall, and over­look­ing the tombs and grave­stones. I could not imag­ine the ob­ject of this noc­tur­nal visit. Holmes gave our guide some money, and he made off. While I stood there, look­ing fear­ful­ly about, I thought I saw the fig­ures of two men be­hind a tomb, at some lit­tle dis­tance. I whis­pered to Holmes, but he mo­tioned for si­lence.

"Hush!" he whis­pered, "Look there!"

I looked where he in­di­cat­ed, and saw an­oth­er fig­ure enter the church­yard. He car­ried some ob­ject, which I soon guessed to be a lantern swathed in a dark wrap­ping. He un­fold­ed a part of this wrap­ping, when he reached one of the tombs, and I rec­og­nized by the light the dark fea­tures of Mr. Jasper. What could he be doing here at this hour? He com­menced to fum­ble in his pock­ets, and present­ly pro­duced a key with which he ap­proached the door of the tomb. Soon it swung open, and Mr. Jasper seemed about to step in­side. But he paused for an in­stant, and then fell back, with a fear­ful scream of ter­ror. Once, twice, did that awful cry ring through the silent church­yard. At its sec­ond rep­e­ti­tion a man stepped from the tomb.

Then Jasper turned, and ran fran­ti­cal­ly to­ward the cathe­dral.

The two men whom I had pre­vi­ous­ly no­ticed sprang from be­hind a mon­u­ment and pur­sued him.

"Quick!" said Holmes, "after him!"

We both ran in the same di­rec­tion as fast as we could. Hin­dered by the dark­ness and by our un­fa­mil­iar­i­ty with the ground, how­ev­er, we made poor progress. The flee­ing choir­mas­ter and his two strange pur­suers had al­ready van­ished into the gloom of the cathe­dral. When at last we en­tered the build­ing the sound of hur­ry­ing foot­steps far above us was all we could hear. Then, as we paused, for an in­stant at fault, there came an­oth­er dread­ful cry, and then si­lence.

Men with lights burst into the cathe­dral and led us up the stair­case to­ward the tower. The twist­ing as­cent was a long busi­ness, and I knew from Holmes's face that he dread­ed what we might find at the top. When we reached the top there lay the choir-mas­ter, Jasper, over­pow­ered and bound by Mr. Tar­tar. The lat­ter, then, had been one of the men I had seen be­hind the mon­u­ment.

"Where is Neville?" said Holmes quick­ly.

Tar­tar shook his head and point­ed below.

"This man," said he, in­di­cat­ing Jasper, "fought with him, and now I fear he re­al­ly has a mur­der to an­swer for."

One of the men in the group which had fol­lowed us to the top stepped for­ward and looked down to­ward Jasper. It was the man whom we had seen step out of the tomb. I start­ed when I saw that ex­cept for the wig and a few changes in his cos­tume it was the same man who had called him­self "Datch­ery."

Jasper gazed up at him and his face was dis­tort­ed with fear.

"Ned! Ned!" he cried, and hid his face on the stone floor.

"Yes, yer may hide yer face," said old Dur­dles, trem­bling with rage, "yer thought yer had mur­dered him, — mur­dered Mr. Edwin Drood, yer own nephew. Yer ho­cussed him with liquor fixed with pizen, same's yer tried to hocus Dur­dles, an' tried to burn him up with quick­lime in the tomb. But Dur­dles found him, Dur­dles did."

He ad­vanced and would have ground the head of the pros­trate choir-mas­ter under his heel, if some men had not held him back.

"Of course," said Holmes to me on the train back to Lon­don next morn­ing, "no one in Clois­ter­ham thought of sus­pect­ing the em­i­nent­ly re­spectable Mr. Jasper. They start­ed with the pre­sump­tion of his in­no­cence. He was a pos­si­ble ob­ject of sus­pi­cion to me from the first. This was be­cause he was one of the two men who last saw Edwin Drood. When we had our in­ter­view with him — Jasper, I mean — I rec­og­nized him as the fre­quenter of a dis­rep­utable opix­mi den near the docks. You may re­mem­ber that I have had oc­ca­sion to look into such places in one other lit­tle prob­lem we stud­ied to­geth­er. He was, then, lead­ing a dou­ble life. That was as far as I had gone when I re­turned to Lon­don last night But while there I had a talk with Mr. Grew­gious, as well as with poor young Land­less and his sis­ter. From them I learned that Jasper was in love with his nephew's be­trothed, and had, in­deed, been per­se­cut­ing her with his at­ten­tions, both be­fore and after Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance. From Mr. Grew­gious's man­ner I be­came con­vinced that he, at any rate, viewed Jasper with pro­found sus­pi­cion. But he was a lawyer, and very cau­tious; he ev­i­dent­ly had no cer­tain proof. Other hints which were dropped led me to sus­pect that he was not mourn­ing the death of young Drood. "This was a cu­ri­ous thing — the whole crux to the mys­tery lay in it. I sat up all night, Wat­son, and con­sumed about four ounces of to­bac­co. It need­ed some think­ing. Why, if Jasper had plot­ted mur­der, had he failed to carry it out? The opium, the opium, Wat­son — you know, your­self, that a con­firmed opi­um-smok­er is apt to fail, is al­most sure to fail, in any great en­ter­prise. He tries to nerve him­self be­fore the deed, and ten to one he mere­ly stu­pe­fies him­self, and the plot mis­car­ries. This morn­ing I saw Mr. Grew­gious again, and charged him in so many words with keep­ing se­cret the fact that Drood was alive. He ad­mit­ted it, and told me that Drood was in Clois­ter­ham mas­querad­ing as Datch­ery."

"But why should he do that?" I asked, "why did he let Neville rest under sus­pi­cion of mur­der?"

"Be­cause he had no cer­tain proof of Jaspers guilt," said Holmes, "and he was try­ing to col­lect ev­i­dence against him. He was him­self drugged when the at­tempt was made upon his life, he was res­cued on that oc­ca­sion by Dur­dles, and his dis­ap­pear­ance was con­nived at by Mr. Grew­gious. The lawyer fur­ther told me of the ring which Edwin Drood car­ried with him, and which the would-be mur­der­er over­looked when he took the watch and pin. Then, it was only nec­es­sary for me to drop a hint to Jasper about the ring. That sent him back to the tomb, into which he sup­posed he had flung Drood's body to be con­sumed by quick­lime. There he found the liv­ing, and not the dead Edwin Drood, as you saw. But the opium was re­al­ly the clew to the whole thing — I went to see the old hag who keeps the den he fre­quent­ed, and leamed from her that he bab­bled end­less­ly about the mur­der in his dreams. He had ar­rived at a point where he could not dis­tin­guish be­tween the real at­tempt at mur­der and a vi­sion. He acted as in a vi­sion when he tried to com­mit the deed, and so it failed.

"As for your the­o­ry about Miss Land­less being Datch­ery — well, my dear fel­low, I am glad for the sake of that prop­er, cler­i­cal gen­tle­man, Mr. Crisparkle, that his in­tend­ed wife has not been mas­querad­ing in trousers at the Clois­ter­ham inns. Poor Land­less — I shall never for­give my­self for his death. His mur­der­er will meet the fate he rich­ly de­serves, with­out a doubt.

"And now, Wat­son, we were dis­cussing bees. Have you ever heard of plant­ing buck­wheat near the hives? I am told that they do won­der­ful­ly on buck­wheat.''

On Pi­rates

Most of us had lis­tened to Bron­son's paper with some in­ter­est. To­ward the end, even the pi­quet play­ers stopped their game to lis­ten. When it was fin­ished, Lenox said:

"Well, I've never read 'Edwin Drood,' but I must say that you've made a pret­ty fair im­i­ta­tion of a Sher­lock Holmes story."

"Yes," Sayles agreed, "you got the ma­chin­ery of Sher­lock and Wat­son all right, any­how. Is that re­al­ly your the­o­ry of the out­come of the novel?"

Bron­son smiled.

"It's the one I be­lieve in, — some­times. It was Richard A. Proc­tor's the­o­ry, of course.

He be­lieved that Drood was not re­al­ly killed, and that he re­turned in dis­guise as Datch­ery to watch his uncle. An­drew Lang held the same opin­ion, and so have some of the other crit­ics. On the op­pos­ing side you have Mr. Cum­ing Wal­ters and Sir Robert­son Nicoll; They are sure that Edwin Drood was mur­dered, and that Datch­ery was He­le­na Land­less."

"The He­le­na Land­less the­o­ry ev­i­dent­ly doesn't ap­peal to you, — since you put it into the mouth of Wat­son, — the good old don­key!"

"No, it doesn't. It fas­ci­nates those who get the bee in their bon­net, how­ev­er."

"I was glad to see one thing," said Sayles, "and that was that you had Holmes wal­lop that ob­nox­ious boy, — Deputy, I think he's called? I hated him . . . But I don't think I agree with you that Drood sur­vived. I've read some of the com­ments on the book, read them at the time of that mock trial in Lon­don, and it seems to me that the ev­i­dence is too Strong that Dick­ens meant the mur­der to suc­ceed. He told so many peo­ple that Drood was dead. Proc­tor and Lang held, I be­lieve, that it would make a bet­ter story to have Edwin turn up alive at the end."

"That's where they were wrong,'' ob­served Cr­erar, the short-sto­ry writ­er. "Un­doubt­ed­ly Dick­ens in­tend­ed his read­ers to puz­zle over the ques­tion if Edwin was re­al­ly dead, but it's a mis­take to sup­pose that it wouldn't have been a per­fect­ly good tale of mys­tery with Edwin safe­ly mur­dered. Any­one less an artist than Dick­ens — all apolo­gies to you, Bron­son — might have need­ed that cli­max of the un­mask­ing of Datch­ery and the re­turn of the miss­ing Edwin. But Dick­ens would have man­aged well enough with­out it."

"That was a cork­ing good idea to send Sher­lock Holmes after the crim­i­nal," said Tilden; "did you in­vent that, Bron­son?"

"Not al­to­geth­er, I'm afraid," replied Bron­son, fill­ing his pipe. "An­drew Lang did some­thing like that in a mag­a­zine, — Long­man's I think. But he just had Wat­son and Sher­lock talk it over in their rooms, — they didn't go out on the trail.'*

"What's the use of it all?" broke in Forbes, from his comer, where he had been read­ing the "Deutsche Rund­schau" all the evening. "What good is it, any­way? Dick­ens is dead; no one knows how he would have fin­ished the story; he might have done it any­way he want­ed; what's the use gassing about it?"

This nice, thick, wet blan­ket sti­fled the con­ver­sa­tion ef­fec­tive­ly. There was a pause for half a minute. At the end of that time Sayles, who was fool­ing with a chaf­ing dish, upset some blaz­ing al­co­hol, and cre­at­ed a di­ver­sion. When it had been put out, the beer was brought in, and Sayles an­nounced that the Welsh Rab­bit was ripe. <...>