Kate Perugini: "Edwin Drood" and the Last Days of Charles Dickens

First published in Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. 37 (1906)


HE Mys­tery of Edwin Drood is a story, or, to speak more cor­rect­ly, the half of a story, that has ex­cit­ed so much gen­er­al in­ter­est and so many spec­u­la­tions as to its ul­ti­mate dis­clo­sures, that it has given rise to var­i­ous imag­i­nary the­o­ries on the part of sev­er­al clever writ­ers; and to much dis­cus­sion among those who are not writ­ers, but mere­ly fer­vent ad­mir­ers and thought­ful read­ers of my fa­ther’s writ­ings. All these at­tach dif­fer­ent mean­ings to the ex­traor­di­nary num­ber of clues my fa­ther has of­fered them to fol­low, and they are even more keen at the pre­sent day than they were when the book made its first ap­pear­ance to find their way through the tan­gled maze and ar­rive at the very heart of the mys­tery. Among the nu­mer­ous books, pam­phlets, and ar­ti­cles that have been writ­ten upon Edwin Drood, there are some that are ex­treme­ly in­ter­est­ing and well worth at­ten­tion, for they con­tain many clever and pos­si­ble sug­ges­tions, and al­though they do not en­tire­ly con­vince us, yet they add still more to the al­most painful anx­i­ety we all feel in wan­der­ing through the lone­ly precincts of Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral, or along the banks of the river that runs through Clois­ter­ham town and leads to the Weir of which we are told in the story.

In fol­low­ing these writ­ers to the end of their sub­tle imag­in­ings as to how the mys­tery might be solved, we may some­times be in­clined to pause for an in­stant and ask our­selves whether my fa­ther did not per­haps in­tend his story to have an end­ing less com­pli­cat­ed, al­though quite as in­ter­est­ing, as any that are sug­gest­ed. We find our­selves turn­ing to John Forster’s Life of Charles Dick­ens to help us in our per­plex­i­ty, and this is what we read in his chap­ter head­ed ‘Last Book.’ Mr. Forster be­gins by telling us that Edwin Drood was to be pub­lished in twelve il­lus­trat­ed month­ly parts, and that it closed pre­ma­ture­ly with the sixth num­ber, which was it­self un­der­writ­ten by two pages; there­fore my fa­ther had ex­act­ly six num­bers and two pages to write when he left his lit­tle châlet in the shrub­bery of Gad’s Hill Place on 8th June 1870, to which he never re­turned. Mr. Forster goes on to say: ‘His first fancy for the tale was ex­pressed in July (mean­ing the July of 1869), in a let­ter which runs thus:

‘“What should you think of the idea of a story be­gin­ning in this way?—Two peo­ple, boy and girl, or very young, going apart from one an­oth­er, pledged to be mar­ried after many years—at the end of the book. The in­ter­est to arise out of the trac­ing of their sep­a­rate ways and the im­pos­si­bil­i­ty of telling what will be done with that im­pend­ing fate.”’

This idea my fa­ther re­lin­quished, al­though he left dis­tinct traces of it in his tale; and in a let­ter to Mr. Forster, dated 6th Au­gust 1869, tells him:

‘I 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.’

Mr. Forster then says that he im­me­di­ate­ly af­ter­wards learnt that the story was to be ‘the mur­der of a nephew by his uncle’; the orig­i­nal­i­ty of which was to con­sist in the re­view of the mur­der­er’s ca­reer by him­self at the close, when its temp­ta­tions were to be dwelt upon as if not he, the cul­prit, but some other man, were the tempt­ed. The last chap­ters were to be writ­ten in the con­demned cell, to which his wicked­ness, all elab­o­rate­ly elicit­ed from him as if told of an­oth­er, had brought him. Dis­cov­ery by the mur­der­er of the utter need­less­ness of the mur­der for its ob­ject, was to fol­low hard upon com­mis­sion of the deed; but all dis­cov­ery of the mur­der­er was to be baf­fled till to­wards the close, when, by means of a gold ring which had re­sist­ed the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of the lime into which he had thrown the body, not only the per­son mur­dered was to be iden­ti­fied, but the lo­cal­i­ty of the crime and the man who com­mit­ted it.’

Mr. Forster adds a lit­tle in­for­ma­tion as to the mar­riages at the close of the book, and makes use of the ex­pres­sion ‘I think’ in speak­ing of Neville Land­less, as though he were not quite cer­tain of what he re­mem­bered con­cern­ing him. This ‘I think’ has been seized upon by some of Mr. Forster’s crit­ics, who ap­pear to argue that be­cause he did not clear­ly rec­ol­lect one de­tail of the story he may there­fore have been mis­tak­en in the whole. But we see for our­selves that Mr. Forster is per­fect­ly well in­formed as to the na­ture of the plot, and the fate of the two prin­ci­pal char­ac­ters con­cerned, the mur­dered and the mur­der­er; and the only thing upon which he is not pos­i­tive is the end­ing of Neville Land­less, to which he con­fess­es in the words ‘I think,’ thus mak­ing his tes­ti­mo­ny to the more im­por­tant facts the more im­pres­sive. If we have any doubts as to whether Mr. Forster cor­rect­ly stat­ed what he was told, we have only to turn to the story of Edwin Drood, and we find, as far as it goes, that his state­ment is en­tire­ly cor­rob­o­rat­ed by what we read in the book.

If those who are in­ter­est­ed in the sub­ject will care­ful­ly read what I have quot­ed, they will not be able to de­tect any word or hint from my fa­ther that it was upon the Mys­tery alone that he re­lied for the in­ter­est and orig­i­nal­i­ty of his idea. The orig­i­nal­i­ty was to be shown, as he tells us, in what we may call the psy­cho­log­i­cal de­scrip­tion the mur­der­er gives us of his temp­ta­tions, tem­per­a­ment, and char­ac­ter, as if told by an­oth­er; and my fa­ther speaks open­ly of the ring to Mr. Forster. More­over, he refers to it often in his story, and we all recog­nise it, what­ev­er our other con­vic­tions may be, as the in­stru­ment by which Jasper’s wicked­ness and guilt are to be es­tab­lished in the end. I do not mean to imply that the mys­tery it­self had no strong hold on my fa­ther’s imag­i­na­tion; but, great­ly as he was in­ter­est­ed in the in­tri­ca­cies of that tan­gled skein, the in­for­ma­tion he vol­un­tar­i­ly gave to Mr. Forster, from whom he had with­held noth­ing for thir­ty-three years, cer­tain­ly points to the fact that he was quite as deeply fas­ci­nat­ed and ab­sorbed in the study of the crim­i­nal Jasper, as in the dark and sin­is­ter crime that has given the book its title. And he also speaks to Mr. Forster of the mur­der of a nephew by an uncle. He does not say that he is un­cer­tain whether he shall save the nephew, but has ev­i­dent­ly made up his mind that the crime is to be com­mit­ted. And so he told his plot to Mr. Forster, as he had been ac­cus­tomed to tell his plots for years past; and those who knew him must feel it im­pos­si­ble to be­lieve that in this, the last year of his life, he should sud­den­ly be­come un­der­hand, and we might say treach­er­ous, to his old friend, by in­vent­ing for his pri­vate ed­i­fi­ca­tion a plot that he had no in­ten­tion of car­ry­ing into ex­e­cu­tion. This is in­cred­i­ble, and the na­ture of the friend­ship that ex­ist­ed be­tween Mr. Forster and him­self makes the idea un­wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion.

Mr. Forster was de­vot­ed­ly at­tached to my fa­ther, but as years passed by this en­gross­ing friend­ship made him a lit­tle jeal­ous of his con­fi­dence, and more than a lit­tle ex­act­ing in his de­mands upon it. My fa­ther was per­fect­ly aware of this weak­ness in his friend, and al­though the knowl­edge of it made him smile at times, and even joke about it when we were at home and alone, he was al­ways sin­gu­lar­ly ten­der­heart­ed where Mr. Forster was con­cerned, and was par­tic­u­lar­ly care­ful never to wound the very sen­si­tive na­ture of one who, from the first mo­ment of their ac­quain­tance, had de­vot­ed his time and en­er­gy to mak­ing my fa­ther’s path in life as smooth as so in­tri­cate a path could be made. In all busi­ness trans­ac­tions Mr. Forster acted for him, and gen­er­al­ly brought him through these trou­bles tri­umphant­ly, where­as, if left to him­self, his im­petu­os­i­ty and im­pa­tience might have spoilt all chances of suc­cess; while in all his pri­vate trou­bles my fa­ther in­stinc­tive­ly turned to his friend, and even when not in­vari­ably fol­low­ing his ad­vice, had yet so much con­fi­dence in his judg­ment as to be ren­dered not only un­easy but un­hap­py if Mr. Forster did not ap­prove of the de­ci­sion at which he ul­ti­mate­ly ar­rived. From the be­gin­ning of their friend­ship to the end of my fa­ther’s life the re­la­tions be­tween the two friends re­mained un­changed; and the no­tion that has been spread abroad that my fa­ther wil­ful­ly mis­led Mr. Forster in what he told him of the plot of Edwin Drood should be aban­doned, as it does not cor­re­spond with the knowl­edge of those who un­der­stood the dig­ni­ty of my fa­ther’s char­ac­ter, and were also aware of the per­fect­ly frank terms upon which he lived with Mr. Forster.

If my fa­ther again changed his plan for the story of Edwin Drood the first thing he would nat­u­ral­ly do would be to write to Mr. Forster and in­form him of the al­ter­ation. We might imag­ine for an in­stant that he would per­haps de­sire to keep the change as a sur­prise for his friend, but what I have just stat­ed with re­gard to Mr. Forster’s char­ac­ter ren­ders this sup­po­si­tion out of the ques­tion, as my fa­ther knew for a cer­tain­ty that his jeal­ousy would debar him from ap­pre­ci­at­ing such a sur­prise, and that he would in all prob­a­bil­i­ty strong­ly re­sent what he might with jus­tice be al­lowed to con­sid­er as a piece of un­nec­es­sary cau­tion on my fa­ther’s part. That he did not write to Mr. Forster to tell him of any di­ver­gence from his sec­ond plan for the book we all know, and we know also that my el­dest broth­er, Charles, pos­i­tive­ly de­clared that he had heard from his fa­ther’s lips that Edwin Drood was dead. Here, there­fore, are two very im­por­tant wit­ness­es to a fact that is still doubt­ed by those who never met my fa­ther, and were never im­pressed by the grave sin­cer­i­ty with which he would have given this as­sur­ance.

It is very often those who most doubt Mr. Forster’s ac­cu­ra­cy on this point who are in the habit of turn­ing to his book when they are in the search of facts to es­tab­lish some the­o­ry of their own; and they do not hes­i­tate to do this, be­cause they know that what­ev­er views they may hold upon the work it­self, or the man­ner in which it is writ­ten, ab­so­lute truth is to be found in its pages. Why should they refuse, there­fore, to be­lieve a state­ment made upon one page of his three vol­umes, when they will­ing­ly and grate­ful­ly ac­cept the rest if it is to their in­ter­est to do so? This is a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer, but it is not with­out im­por­tance when we are dis­cussing the sub­ject of Edwin Drood. On pages 425 and 426 of the third vol­ume of Mr. Forster’s Life is to be found the sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion of my fa­ther’s plot for his story, as given to him by my fa­ther him­self. It is true that Mr. Forster speaks from re­mem­brance, but how often does he not speak from re­mem­brance, and yet how sel­dom are we in­clined to doubt his word? Only here, be­cause what he tells us does not ex­act­ly fit in with our pre­con­ceived views as to how the tale shall be fin­ished, are we dis­posed to quar­rel with him, for the sim­ple rea­son that we flat­ter our­selves we have dis­cov­ered a bet­ter end­ing to the book than the one orig­i­nal­ly in­tend­ed for it by the au­thor. And so we put his state­ment aside and ig­nore it, while we grope in the dark for a thing we shall never find; and we ob­sti­nate­ly refuse to allow even the lit­tle glim­mer of light my fa­ther has him­self thrown upon the ob­scu­ri­ty to help us in our search. It was not, I imag­ine, for the in­tri­cate work­ing out of his plot alone that my fa­ther cared to write this story; but it was through his won­der­ful ob­ser­va­tion of char­ac­ter, and his strange in­sight into the trag­ic se­crets of the human heart, that he de­sired his great­est tri­umph to be achieved.

I do not write upon these things be­cause I have any fresh or startling the­o­ries to offer upon the sub­ject of Edwin Drood. I can­not say that I am with­out my own opin­ions, but I am fully con­scious that after what has been al­ready so ably said, they would have but lit­tle in­ter­est for the gen­er­al pub­lic; so I shrink from ven­tur­ing upon any sug­ges­tions re­spect­ing the so­lu­tion of my fa­ther’s last book. My chief ob­ject in writ­ing is to re­mind the read­ers of this paper that there are cer­tain facts con­nect­ed with this story that can­not light­ly be put aside, and these facts are to be found in John Forster’s Life of Charles Dick­ens, and in the dec­la­ra­tion made by my broth­er Charles. Hav­ing known both Mr. Forster and my broth­er in­ti­mate­ly, I can­not for a mo­ment be­lieve that ei­ther of them would speak or write that which he did not know to be strict­ly true; and it is on these grounds alone that I think I have a right to be heard when I in­sist upon the as­ser­tion that Edwin Drood was un­doubt­ed­ly mur­dered by his uncle Jasper. As to the un­rav­el­ling of the mys­tery, and the way in which the mur­der was per­pe­trat­ed, we are all at lib­er­ty to have our own views, see­ing that no ex­pla­na­tions were as yet ar­rived at in the story; but we should re­mem­ber that only vague spec­u­la­tions can be in­dulged in when we try to imag­ine them for our­selves.

It has been point­ed out, and very just­ly, that al­though Jasper re­moved the watch, chain, and scarf-pin from Edwin’s body, there would pos­si­bly re­main on it money of some kind, keys, and the metal but­tons on his clothes, which the ac­tion of the quick­lime could not de­stroy, and by which his iden­ti­ty would be made known. This has been looked upon as an over­sight, a mere piece of for­get­ful­ness on my fa­ther’s part. But re­mem­ber­ing, as I do very well, what he often said, that the most clever crim­i­nals were con­stant­ly de­tect­ed through some small de­fect in their cal­cu­la­tions, I can­not but think it most prob­a­ble that this was not an over­sight, but was in­tend­ed to lead up to the pet the­o­ry that he so fre­quent­ly men­tioned when­ev­er a mur­der case was brought to trial. After read­ing Edwin Drood many times, as most of us have read it, we must, I think, come to the con­clu­sion that not a word of this tale was writ­ten with­out full con­sid­er­a­tion; that in this story at least my fa­ther left noth­ing to chance, and that there­fore the money, and the but­tons, were des­tined to take their prop­er place in the book, and might turn out to be a weak spot in Jasper’s well-ar­ranged and com­pli­cat­ed plot, the weak spot my fa­ther in­sist­ed upon, as being in­sep­a­ra­ble from the com­mis­sion of a great crime, how­ev­er skil­ful­ly planned. The keys spo­ken of need not be taken se­ri­ous­ly into ac­count, for Edwin was a care­less young fel­low, and it is not un­rea­son­able to sup­pose that he did not al­ways carry them upon his per­son; he was stay­ing with his uncle, and he may have left them in the port­man­teau, which was most like­ly at the time of the mur­der lying un­fas­tened in his room, with the key be­long­ing to it in the lock. It would be un­fair to sug­gest that my fa­ther wrote un­ad­vis­ed­ly of this or that, for he had still the half of his story to fin­ish, and plen­ty of time, as he thought, in which to gath­er up the bro­ken threads and weave them into a sym­met­ri­cal and har­mo­nious whole, which he was so em­i­nent­ly ca­pa­ble of com­plet­ing.

That my fa­ther’s brain was more than usu­al­ly clear and bright dur­ing the writ­ing of Edwin Drood, no one who lived with him could pos­si­bly doubt; and the ex­traor­di­nary in­ter­est he took in the de­vel­op­ment of this story was ap­par­ent in all that he said or did, and was often the sub­ject of con­ver­sa­tion be­tween those who anx­ious­ly watched him as he wrote, and feared that he was try­ing his strength too far. For al­though my fa­ther’s death was sud­den and un­ex­pect­ed, the knowl­edge that his bod­i­ly health was fail­ing had been for some time too forcibly brought to the no­tice of those who loved him, for them to be blind to the fact that the book he was now en­gaged in, and the con­cen­tra­tion of his de­vo­tion and en­er­gy upon it, were a tax too great for his fast-ebbing strength. Any at­tempt to stay him, how­ev­er, in work that he had un­der­tak­en was as idle as stretch­ing one’s hands to a river and bid­ding it cease to flow; and be­yond a few re­mon­strances now and again urged, no such at­tempt was made, know­ing as we did that it would be en­tire­ly use­less. And so the work sped on, car­ry­ing with it my fa­ther’s few re­main­ing days of life, and the end came all too soon, as it was bound to come, to one who never ceased to labour for those who were dear to him, in the hope of gain­ing for them that which he was des­tined never to enjoy. And in my fa­ther’s grave lies buried the se­cret of his story.

The scene of the Eight Club, which Mr. Forster dis­cov­ered after his death, in which there fig­ure two new char­ac­ters, Mr. Peartree and Mr. Kim­ber, bears no re­la­tion as we read it to the un­fold­ing of the plot; and al­though the young man Poker, who is also in­tro­duced in this frag­ment for the first time, seems to be of more sig­nif­i­cance, we see too lit­tle of him to be cer­tain that we may not al­ready have made his ac­quain­tance. In Mr. Sapsea my fa­ther ev­i­dent­ly took much plea­sure, and we are here re­mind­ed of the note made for him in the first num­ber-plan of Edwin Drood: ‘Mr. Sapsea. Old Tory jack­ass. Con­nect Jasper with him. (He will want a solemn don­key by and by.)’ My fa­ther also want­ed the solemn don­key, and not only brought him in for the pur­pos­es of his story, but be­cause, as in the case of ‘the Bil­lickin,’ he took de­light in dwelling upon the ab­sur­di­ties of the char­ac­ter.

As to the cover of Edwin Drood, that has been the sub­ject of so much dis­cus­sion there is very lit­tle to tell. It was de­signed and drawn by Mr. Charles A. Collins, my first hus­band. The same rea­sons that pre­vent­ed me from teas­ing my fa­ther with ques­tions re­spect­ing his story made me re­frain from ask­ing any of Mr. Collins; but from what he said I cer­tain­ly gath­ered that he was not in pos­ses­sion of my fa­ther’s se­cret, al­though he had made his de­signs from my fa­ther’s di­rec­tions. There are a few things in this cover that I fancy have been a lit­tle mis­un­der­stood. In the book only Jasper and Neville Land­less are de­scribed as dark young men. Edwin Drood is fair, and so is Crisparkle. Tar­tar is burnt by the sun; but when Rosa asks ‘the Un­lim­it­ed head cham­ber­maid’ at the hotel in Fur­ni­val’s Inn if the gen­tle­man who has just called is dark, she replies:

‘No, Miss, more of a brown gen­tle­man.’
‘You are sure not with black hair?’ asked Rosa, tak­ing courage.
‘Quite sure of that, Miss. Brown hair and blue eyes.’

Now in a draw­ing it would be dif­fi­cult to make a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the fair hair of Edwin and the slight­ly dark­er hair of Tar­tar; and in the pic­ture, where we see a girl—Rosa we imag­ine her to be—seat­ed in a gar­den, the young man at her feet is, I feel pret­ty sure, in­tend­ed for Tar­tar. Edwin it can­not be, nor Neville, as has been sup­posed, for he was de­cid­ed­ly dark. Be­sides this, Neville would not have told his af­fec­tion to Rosa, for He­le­na was far too quick-wit­ted not to un­der­stand from Rosa’s first men­tion of Tar­tar that she is al­ready in love with him, and she would have warned and saved the broth­er to whom she was so ar­dent­ly at­tached from mak­ing any such con­fes­sion. The fig­ure is not in­tend­ed for Jasper, be­cause we know that Jasper did not move from the sun-di­al in the scene where he de­clares his mad pas­sion for Rosa, and Jasper had black hair and whiskers. And, again, the draw­ing can­not be meant to rep­re­sent He­le­na and Crisparkle, for the young man is not in cler­i­cal dress. The fig­ures going up the stairs are still more dif­fi­cult to make out; but there can be lit­tle doubt that the ac­tive high­er one is the same young man we see at Rosa’s feet, and must there­fore be Tar­tar. Of the re­main­ing two, one may be Crisparkle, al­though there is still no cler­i­cal at­tire, and the other ei­ther Grew­gious or Neville, though the draw­ing cer­tain­ly bears but lit­tle re­sem­blance to ei­ther of those char­ac­ters.

The lower and mid­dle pic­ture is, of course, the great scene of the book; but whether the young man stand­ing calm, and in­ex­orable as Fate, is in­tend­ed to be the ghost of Edwin as seen by Jasper in his half-dazed and drugged con­di­tion, or whether it is He­le­na dressed as Datch­ery, as one writ­er has in­ge­nious­ly sug­gest­ed (al­though there are rea­sons in the story against the sup­po­si­tion that He­le­na is Datch­ery, and many to sup­port the the­o­ry that the ‘old buffer’ is Baz­zard),—these are puz­zles that will never be cleared up, ex­cept to the minds of those who have pos­i­tive­ly de­ter­mined that they hold the clue to the mys­tery, and can only see its in­ter­pre­ta­tion from one point of view. The girl’s fig­ure with stream­ing hair, in the pic­ture where the word ‘Lost’ is writ­ten, has been sup­posed to rep­re­sent Rosa after her part­ing from Edwin; but it may more like­ly, I think, in­di­cate some scene in the book which has yet to be de­scribed in the story. This is an­oth­er enig­ma; but my fa­ther, it may be pre­sumed, in­tend­ed to puz­zle his read­ers by the cover, and he had every le­git­i­mate right to do so, for had his mean­ing been made per­fect­ly clear ‘the in­ter­est of the book would be gone.’ Some sur­prise has been ex­pressed be­cause Mr. Forster did not ask Mr. Collins for the mean­ing of his de­signs; but if he al­ready knew the plot, why should he seek in­for­ma­tion from Mr. Collins? par­tic­u­lar­ly as my fa­ther may have told him that he had not dis­closed the se­cret of his story to his il­lus­tra­tors, for I be­lieve I am right in af­firm­ing that Mr. Luke Fildes was no bet­ter in­formed as to the plan of the book than was Mr. Collins.

I am un­for­tu­nate­ly not ac­quaint­ed with much that has been writ­ten about Edwin Drood, for the story was so painful­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with my fa­ther’s death and the sor­row of that time that after first read­ing it I could never bear to look into the book again till about two months ago, when I found my­self obliged to do so; and then my thoughts flew back to the last oc­ca­sion when my fa­ther men­tioned it in my hear­ing.

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There is one other fact con­nect­ed with my fa­ther and Edwin Drood that I think my read­ers would like to know, and I must be for­giv­en if I again speak from my own ex­pe­ri­ence in order to re­late it. Upon read­ing the book once more, as I have al­ready told, after an in­ter­val of a great num­ber of years, the story took such en­tire pos­ses­sion of me that for a long time I could think of noth­ing else; and one day, my aunt, Miss Hog­a­rth, being with me, I asked her if she knew any­thing more def­i­nite than I did as to how the end­ing was to be brought about. For I should ex­plain that when my fa­ther was un­usu­al­ly ret­i­cent we sel­dom, if ever, at­tempt­ed to break his si­lence by re­marks or hints that might lead him to sup­pose that we were anx­ious to learn what he had no doubt good rea­sons for de­sir­ing to keep from us. And we made it a point of hon­our among our­selves never, in talk­ing to him on the sub­ject of Edwin Drood, to show the im­pa­tience we nat­u­ral­ly felt to ar­rive at the end of so en­gross­ing a tale.

My aunt said that she knew ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing, but she told me that short­ly be­fore my fa­ther’s death, and after he had been speak­ing of some dif­fi­cul­ty he was in with his work, with­out ex­plain­ing what it was, she found it im­pos­si­ble to re­frain from ask­ing him, ‘I hope you haven’t re­al­ly killed poor Edwin Drood?’ To which he grave­ly replied, ‘I call my book the Mys­tery, not the His­to­ry, of Edwin Drood.’ And that was all he would an­swer. My aunt could not make out from the reply, or from his man­ner of giv­ing it, whether he wished to con­vey that the Mys­tery was to re­main a mys­tery for ever, or if he de­sired gen­tly to re­mind her that he would not dis­close his se­cret until the prop­er time ar­rived for telling it. But I think his words are so sug­ges­tive, and may carry with them so much mean­ing, that I offer them now, with my aunt’s per­mis­sion, to those who take a de­light in try­ing to un­rav­el the im­pen­e­tra­ble se­crets of a story that has with­in its sadly short­ened pages a most cu­ri­ous fas­ci­na­tion, and is 'gift­ed with in­vin­ci­ble force to hold and drag.'