Mary Kavanagh: A New Solution of the Mystery of Edwin Drood

TO MY DEAREST MOTHER
IN MEMORY OF OUR MANY PLEASANT FIRESIDE READINGS OF DICKENS

N

otwith­stand­ing the lapse of time since Dick­ens' death, and the many painstak­ing ef­forts made to solve the mysteri­ous plot of his great un­fin­ished work, it will be gen­er­al­ly ad­mit­ted that no very happy elu­ci­da­tion of that al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing prob­lem has hith­er­to been of­fered to the pub­lic. It now re­mains to be seen whether the at­tempt set forth in the fol­low­ing pages shall be con­signed to obliv­ion as un­satisfactory with its many pre­de­ces­sors, or shall be so for­tu­nate as to carry off, by gen­er­al con­sent, the palm of vic­to­ry, as being the true so­lu­tion at last.

The the­o­ry ad­vanced some years ago—that Edwin Drood was ac­tu­al­ly killed by Jasper, and that Datch­ery is none other than He­le­na Land­less in ro­bust dis­guise, must ap­pear to every sym­pa­thet­ic stu­dent of Dick­ens as unten­able as it is un plea sing. The great mas­ter never fails of chival­rous del­i­ca­cy in his treat­ment of beau­ti­ful and interest­ing young wom­an­hood, but he must be ad­mit­ted to have fall­en very far below his or­di­nary level in this re­spect if the state­ly He­le­na be in­deed one with the "idle dog" and "sin­gle buffer" who dis­pos­es of a pint of sher­ry for his din­ner, and is pre­sent­ed to us " but­toned up in a tight­ish blue surtout, with a buff waist­coat and grey trousers." No: Datch­ery is dis­tinct­ly un­com­pro­mis­ing­ly mas­cu­line. What­ev­er else he may be hid­ing or as­sum­ing there is no mas­quer­ade of sex.

The weight of ev­i­dence is great­ly in favour of Edwin's es­cape. A re­al­ly in­con­testable proof of it, in the writ­er's opin­ion, is af­ford­ed by the pic­ture drawn for the cover of the book, which rep­re­sents Edwin con­fronting his enemy in the vault; this pic­ture, being one of a se­ries of vi­gnettes de­signed by Collins under Dick­ens' own su­per­vi­sion. And as the late Mr. An­drew Lang very just­ly point­ed out, Jasper's "dazes" have no sig­nif­i­cance upon any other hy­poth­e­sis. He was sub­ject to be taken with one of these pe­cu­liar seizures al­ways after an opium bout; and he had had a strong dose of the drug the night be­fore Christ­mas Eve. This we gath­er from his state of ex­al­ta­tion dur­ing the whole of that day, and from the fact of his hav­ing been tracked by the "Princess Puffer" from her opium den back to Clois­ter­ham. The "daze" was there­fore bound to fol­low, and was des­tined with­out doubt to be Edwin's sal­va­tion on that fate­ful night. Jasper's own dis­sat­is­fac­tion with his work, the haunt­ing sus­pi­cion of fail­ure which pur­sues him through his dreams in the opium den, is an­oth­er strik­ing in­di­ca­tion of the break­down of his scheme.

Again, Datch­ery is aware of cir­cum­stances which could be known only to Edwin Drood. He is ob­vi­ous­ly in­ter­est­ed in the Sapsea Mon­u­ment, as though he quite un­der­stood its con­nec­tion with the Jasper crime; and he knows of Edwin's en­counter with the Princess Puffer on Christ­mas Eve night.

But while it is suf­fi­cient­ly clear that Drood is still liv­ing, it is not equal­ly clear that Datch­ery is Drood. The lat­ter, for ex­am­ple, was fa­mil­iar with Clois­ter­ham, and with Tope's house in par­tic­u­lar, yet Datch­ery blun­ders, and goes astray in look­ing for that very house; not pur­pose­ly, as one act­ing a part, but at a time when there is no one pre­sent to ob­serve him, and be de­ceived by his ap­par­ent ig­no­rance of the lo­cal­i­ty. He crim­sons too with sud­den ex­cite­ment on hear­ing from the old opium woman (whom Drood would hard­ly have failed to rec­og­nize) of her meet­ing, on Christ­mas Eve night, with a young man named Edwin; and he shows an ir­re­press­ible in­ter­est in dis­cov­er­ing where Jasper lives. It is not nec­es­sary to the role he has adopt­ed, rather it is in­discreet if any­thing to be­tray such feel­ing.

Not the least forcible ar­gu­ment in favour of Edwin's reap­pear­ance upon the scene, is that Dick­ens' sym­pa­thies are in­vari­ably en­list­ed on the side of his hero; and that he would be all the less like­ly to de­liv­er him to a trag­ic fate, when such a sac­ri­fice would mean the be­tray­al of in­no­cence and the tri­umph of guilt. His an­tipathies are as strong as his par­tial­i­ties: he de­tests the evil be­ings of his cre­ation quite as hearti­ly as he loves the good; and he never drew a vil­lain more thor­ough­ly black-heart­ed than Jasper, or a hero more de­serv­ing and lov­able than Edwin Drood.

On the other hand there is this dif­fi­cul­ty to be con­sidered: if it is un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of Dick­ens to sac­ri­fice Edwin to Jasper, it would be equal­ly un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of him— sup­pos­ing Edwin re­stored to life—to set about com­pen­sat­ing him for the mis­for­tunes of the past, and yet to omit from his des­tiny the crown­ing hap­pi­ness of a ro­man­tic at­tach­ment— to leave him in the hey­day of youth and pros­per­i­ty unlov­ing and unloved! Im­pos­si­ble as such un­gen­er­ous treat­ment ap­pears, this is what Mr. Lang be­lieved to have been the au­thor's in­ten­tion; and in truth it does seem upon a first con­sid­er­a­tion as if there could be no es­cap­ing that con­clu­sion. If Edwin had not cared for Rosa the dif­fi­cul­ty might have been got over sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly enough, by a new hero­ine brought upon the scene even at the eleventh hour; but as mat­ters stand a very pret­ty bud­ding ro­mance is to all ap­pear­ance hope­less­ly spoiled. It is plain, in a book oth­er­wise bristling with puz­zles that Edwin and Rosa were re­al­ly at­tached to one an­oth­er, and were mere­ly held back from a knowl­edge of their own hearts by the cir­cum­stance of their hav­ing been af­fi­anced in child­hood by their par­ents, and so de­nied the priv­i­lege of free choice.

"Isn't it un­sat­is­fac­to­ry," says Edwin to Jasper, "to be cut off from choice in such a mat­ter? There, Jack! If I could choose, I would choose Pussy from all the pret­ty girls in the world."

The un­sat­is­fac­to­ry state of their feel­ings was more her fault than his. He re­quired only a lit­tle en­cour­age­ment to be over head and ears in love with her, and was con­sid­er­ably piqued by her seem­ing scorn and in­dif­fer­ence. Rosa, how­ever, felt even more bit­ter­ly than he the in­jus­tice of their hav­ing been "mar­ried by an­tic­i­pa­tion," as Edwin ex­pressed it.

"We should both of us have done bet­ter," she says, "if 'What is to be' had been left 'What might have been.'"

That was the grievance, that their des­tiny had been ar­ranged with­out their hav­ing been con­sult­ed in the mat­ter. When at length, it comes to the final part­ing, Rosa hav­ing bro­ken off the en­gage­ment, Edwin's feel­ings are both dis­satisfied with her dis­ci­sion and very ten­der to­wards her­self.

"Some­thing of deep­er mo­ment than he had thought had gone out of his life, and in the si­lence of his own cham­ber he wept for it last night. Though the image of Miss Land­less still hov­ers in the back­ground of his mind, the pret­ty lit­tle af­fec­tion­ate crea­ture, so much firmer and wiser than he had sup­posed, oc­cu­pies its stronghold."

There is no avoid­ing a wish that the lovers should come to a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing, and be hap­pi­ly re-unit­ed at last; and ac­cord­ing­ly we feel cheat­ed when Tar­tar ap­pears upon the scene, and ap­pro­pri­ates Rosa. He may be a very good sort of fel­low, but he is a stranger to us; and we have nei­ther time nor op­por­tu­ni­ty to cul­ti­vate a friend­ly in­ter­est in him, when we find him thrust upon us as Rosa's lover. The con­se­quence is that we are per­verse­ly dis­in­clined to like him from the first.

This is all de­cid­ed­ly inartis­tic. It is be­sides an out­rage upon sen­ti­ment, dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile with the high­ly senti­mental au­thor.

Now as a mat­ter of fact this dis­con­cert­ing de­vel­op­ment is ca­pa­ble of an ex­pla­na­tion which not only saves the love in­ter­est, but gives it just the most de­sir­able and de­light­ful turn; which is quite in ac­cord with Dick­ens' usual meth­ods, and much more wor­thy of his ge­nius than any hith­er­to brought for­ward. To begin with: Edwin's es­cape, assum­ing that he did es­cape, must have been so ef­fect­ed as to place him im­me­di­ate­ly and com­plete­ly be­yond the pos­si­bil­i­ty of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with his friends, and of hear­ing what oc­curred in Clois­ter­ham upon his dis­ap­pear­ance. It is clear that if he were lying con­cealed, not to say in the vicin­i­ty of Clois­ter­ham, but even in the far­thest part of Eng­land, or were known to be liv­ing by Mr Grew­gious, Dur­dles, or any other friend or ac­quain­tance, Neville Land­less could not have fall­en a vic­tim to the re­lent­less en­mi­ty of Jasper. Edwin in­deed, hav­ing been drugged, might af­ter­wards re­mem­ber very lit­tle of what had be­fall­en him; but he ought at least to have rec­ol­lect­ed all that oc­curred up to the time when he be­came in­sen­si­ble; and part of that was his bid­ding good-bye to Neville at Mr. Crisparkle's door. His ev­i­dence how­ev­er con­fused, or the ev­i­dence of his res­cuer, would have point­ed sus­pi­cion in the right di­rec­tion, and de­stroyed the tes­ti­mo­ny of the watch and chain found in the weir. In any case, even if Neville were not en­tire­ly cleared, his life would no longer be shad­owed by the fear of being brought to trial for mur­der. It is true he was never ac­tu­al­ly ar­rest­ed; but so keen­ly did he feel the peril and ig­nominy of his po­si­tion that his nerve and his health gave way; he shrank from being seen in the streets by day­light; he was has­ten­ing fast to an un­time­ly grave, yet nei­ther Mr. Grew­gious nor Mr. Crisparkle had any com­fort to be­stow.

"'You must ex­pect no mir­a­cle to help you, Neville,' said Mr. Crisparkle com­pas­sion­ate­ly. 'No, Sir, I know that. The or­di­nary full­ness of time and cir­cum­stances is all I have to trust to.'"

Where then did Edwin go? And how did he cut him­self away so en­tire­ly from the knowl­edge of his friends, and from all hear­ing of news from Clois­ter­ham? It may be sug­gest­ed that he fell ill as an ef­fect of the drug, and of the shock he had sus­tained, and that he lay for some time un­con­scious in the care of strangers. But then he could not have been hors de com­bat for so long a time as six months, un­less he suf­fered from a very se­ri­ous men­tal de­range­ment in­deed. No: an ex­pla­na­tion of the mys­tery is only to be found in the cir­cum­stance that Clois­ter­ham was a sea­port town (it stands for Rochester, which is with­in a short dis­tance of Chatham docks) and that Edwin got taken out to sea, ei­ther by his own de­vices, or by being smug­gled on board with the help of oth­ers. "The Trav­ellers' Twopen­ny" was prob­a­bly fre­quent­ed by sailors; and the Princess Puffer, who had a large nau­ti­cal ac­quain­tance, and who more­over liked Edwin, and sus­pect­ed Jasper's de­signs against him, was stop­ping there on Christ­mas Eve night. The in­fer­ence is clear: Edwin was taken out to sea, and had to rough it on board ship for four or five months. What more nat­u­ral then, than that he should re­turn to Eng­land in the char­ac­ter of a sailor? And what more like­ly than that Lieu­tenant Tar­tar and Edwin Drood are iden­ti­cal?

It ap­pears im­pos­si­ble no doubt at first, yet there is no great rea­son why it should, un­less it be in­con­ceiv­able that a Minor Canon could be found guilty of a false­hood. Dick­ens' ap­proved and es­timable char­ac­ters, how­ev­er, do not scru­ple to have re­course to sub­terfuge when a wor­thy ob­ject is to be gained by it. Old Mar­tin Chuz­zle­wit car­ries out his de­signs for the dis­com­fi­ture and over­throw of Mr. Peck­sniff with a du­plic­i­ty fully equal to that gen­tle­man's own. Mr. Bof­fin pur­sues a sim­i­lar pol­i­cy of de­cep­tion with Silas Wegg, and John Har­mon with Mr. Bof­fin. The im­mor­tal works arc full of dis­guis­es and con­ceal­ments of one kind or an­oth­er, and Dick­ens is said to have con­fid­ed to some­one that an un­ex­pect­ed and sen­sa­tion­al dénoue­ment might be looked for in Edwin Drood.

The scene with Mr. Crisparkle is so in­ge­nious­ly worked up that it puts the read­er off the trail at the out­set. Yet in re­al­i­ty it is not dif­fi­cult to ex­plain. Edwin's dis­guise was of course as­sumed with the ob­ject of over-reach­ing and en­trapping his enemy. He had in all prob­a­bil­i­ty no thought of how it might be made to serve him with Rosa, till Jasper's im­por­tu­ni­ty drove her up to Lon­don, and put her with­in his reach. He would then nat­u­ral­ly feel that an ideal chance had come in his way of win­ning her af­fec­tions in the or­di­nary and ac­cept­ed man­ner both had felt to be so de­sir­able. To meet and rec­om­mend him­self to her as a stranger might well be to undo the mis­chief wrought by their well-mean­ing but too of­fi­cious par­ents. The con­di­tions, it will be noted, are ex­act­ly such as are need­ed to bring the love story to its full bloom and fruitage.

On the night of Rosa's ar­rival in Lon­don Mr. Grew­gious, hav­ing set­tled her com­fort­ably in the hotel at Fur­ni­val's inn, walks up and down be­fore her door for some hours, prob­a­bly till he thinks he may safe­ly com­mu­ni­cate with Edwin. He sus­pects that his cham­bers are being watched, and wish­es ei­ther to give the im­pres­sion of in­tend­ing to re­main away all night, or to weary out any pos­si­ble spy upon his move­ments; or he may be wait­ing to be joined by Edwin, who as his lodg­ings are op­po­site his own, may be al­ready cog­nizant of Rosa's ar­rival. How­ev­er it hap­pens, we will sup­pose that the two at length come into communica­tion, and that the young man whose af­fec­tion, it may be imag­ined, has been strength­ened by his long ab­sence, and by the dan­gers and hard­ships to which he has been ex­posed, is all im­pa­tience to be brought in con­tact again with the pret­ty ob­ject of his af­fec­tions. There is, how­ev­er, a dif­fi­cul­ty in the way: she has known him in­ti­mate­ly from child­hood, and it is great­ly to be feared she will rec­og­nize him in spite of his dis­guise. This con­sid­er­a­tion taxes their in­ge­nu­ity till at length they hit upon a lit­tle plan for throw­ing her off the scent, which is to be car­ried out with the aid of Mr. Crisparkle. It is agreed that Mr. Grew­gious shall write im­me­di­ate­ly, to the lat­ter, and sum­mon him to Lon­don.

But Mr. Crisparkle saves him the trou­ble by walk­ing in upon him op­por­tune­ly the fol­low­ing morn­ing. He is then in­formed for the first time of Edwin's re­turn, and in­struct­ed in the rôle he is to play, as soon as op­por­tu­ni­ty of­fers. Mr. Grew­gious makes no im­me­di­ate at­tempt to bring about a meet­ing be­tween the two men. He fears to di­rect sus­pi­cion upon Tar­tar by being him­self seen in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with him, in the dan­ger­ous neigh­bor­hood of Sta­ple Inn. The in­ter­view at an end, he and Mr. Crisparkle set out to­geth­er to visit Rosa. On their way they pass Tar­tar who is smok­ing under the trees; and Mr. Grew­gious points him out to his com­pan­ion as the re­turned Edwin Drood. No word of greet­ing is spo­ken, no sign of recog­ni­tion given. But the cau­tion con­sid­ered ad­vis­able in Sta­ple Inn is not equal­ly nec­es­sary else­where: Tar­tar being sat­is­fied that Mr. Cri­sparkle has re­ceived his in­struc­tions hur­ries after them to the hotel, and is present­ly face to face with the good Minor Canon. The lat­ter is be­wil­dered by his dis­guise, and pro­foundly moved by the sense of his pres­ence. He is nat­u­ral­ly some­what star­tled when "Tar­tar" de­mands frankly: "Who am I?"

He replies with some cau­tion: "You are the gen­tle­man I saw smok­ing under the trees at Sta­ple Inn a few min­utes ago!

"True, there I saw you Who else am I?"

But Mr. Crisparkle is not ready. He is star­ing with a strained gaze at the dark, bronzed, man­ly-look­ing young fel­low be­fore him, whom, apart from his dis­guise, suf­fer­ing and hard­ship have rapid­ly trans­formed from boy to man, en­deav­or­ing to trace out a like­ness: "And the ghost of some de­part­ed boy seemed to rise grad­u­al­ly and dimly in the room."

He is so con­fused and pre­oc­cu­pied that the other has to jog his mem­o­ry of the lit­tle farce to be en­act­ed be­tween them.

"'What will you have for break­fast this morn­ing? You are out of jam.' 'Wait a mo­ment!' cried Mr. Crisparkle rais­ing his right hand,' Give me an­oth­er in­stant! Tar­tar!'"

The two shook hands with the great­est hearti­ness and went the sur­pris­ing length for En­glish­men of lay­ing their hands on each other's shoul­ders and look­ing into each other's faces.

"'My old fag!' said Mr. Crisparkle.

"'My old mas­ter!' said Mr. Tar­tar.

"'You saved me from drown­ing,' said Mr. Crisparkle.

"'After which you took to swim­ming, you know,' said Mr. Tar­tar.

"'God bless my soul!' said Mr. Crisparkle.

"'Amen!' said Mr. Tar­tar."

The cor­dial­i­ty of the meet­ing and the joy of it are real, not as­sumed, and the piece of act­ing pass­es off all the bet­ter for the gen­uine feel­ing which un­der­lies it. The drown­ing story is nec­es­sary, in order to ac­count both to Rosa and the read­er for the un­re­served con­fi­dence to be present­ly re­posed in the young sailor. It is also thrown out as a bait to at­tract Rosa's in­ter­est and ad­mi­ra­tion at the very out­set. There is an un­der­cur­rent of play­ful­ness in it too, owing to the fact that Mr. Crisparkle is a great pow­er­ful fel­low, and an ex­pert swim­mer in the bar­gain.

"Imag­ine" ex­claimed Mr. Crisparkle, with glis­ten­ing eyes..." Imag­ine Mr. Tar­tar when he was the small­est of ju­niors, div­ing for me, catch­ing me, a great heavy se­nior, by the hair of the head, and strik­ing out for the shore like a water giant!"

Tar­tar's worth and re­li­a­bil­i­ty are thus se­cure­ly estab­lished, and the way is paved for tak­ing him into con­fi­dence with­out arous­ing sus­pi­cion of his iden­ti­ty. The lit­tle fic­tion is so benev­o­lent­ly con­ceived that even a Minor Canon might be ex­cused for being a party to it; and the re­sult is all that had been an­tic­i­pat­ed. Rosa is quite thrown off the scent, and to the great de­light of Mr. Grew­gious ob­vi­ous­ly con­quered too t The lat­ter gen­tle­man, who near­ly suf­fo­cates with sup­pressed emo­tion, makes haste to send away the pair to­geth­er, part­ly in order that Rosa may visit He­le­na Land­less, but more truly that she and Tar­tar may be thrown to­geth­er for the en­joy­ment of a few hours of one an­oth­er's so­ci­ety.

As they cross the street she sighs and mur­murs " Poor, poor Eddy!" Why? Is she apol­o­giz­ing to the mem­o­ry of the lost Edwin for her sud­den in­ter­est in Tar­tar? That is scarce­ly the ex­pla­na­tion. A hero­ine of the mod­est and shrink­ing type like Rosa, all blush­es and tremors, would never have ad­mit­ted to her­self thus freely, and while in his com­pa­ny too, the na­ture of the emo­tion with which this stranger has in­spired her. She is mere­ly think­ing: "If poor Eddy had had this man's op­por­tu­ni­ties he might have been such as he." There is some­thing about him which re­calls Edwin, but the ex­pres­sion of the face is changed. The ter­ri­ble treach­ery of Jasper, whom he had hon­est­ly and sim­ply loved and trust­ed, has al­tered the light-heart­ed care­less boy into a sober and earnest man. He has looked for­ward too dur­ing these months of his ab­sence, to the strug­gle now about to take place: "And his far-see­ing blue eyes looked as if they had been used to watch dan­ger afar off, and to watch it with­out flinch­ing draw­ing near­er and near­er." He is like Edwin, and yet dif­fer­ent; but she loves him sim­ply be­cause he is Edwin, with the old bar­ri­er be­tween them re­moved at last!

Tar­tar is of course dis­guised. There is no de­scrip­tion given, pur­pose­ly no doubt, of Edwin Drood's ap­pear­ance; but his pic­tures rep­re­sent him as re­mark­ably fair. And now a dark brown wig, worn in a new style of hair-dress­ing for him, cov­ers his blond wavy locks, and to­geth­er with eye­brows to match gives an un­fa­mil­iar look to the fore­head and eyes; a mous­tache, also false, for Edwin's pic­tures re­veal him as clean-shaven, con­ceals the mouth, and makes a fur­ther change of as­pect. The hand­some fea­tures re­main un­al­tered; but the gen­er­al ex­pres­sion of the face is bold­er, graver, more re­spon­si­ble. He is very much sun­burnt, with the ex­cep­tion of a lit­tle bit of the fore­head and throat, where the ex­treme white­ness of his skin makes al­most lu­di­crous con­trast with the rest of his com­plex­ion. "A hand­some gen­tle­man, with a young face, but an older fig­ure, in its ro­bust­ness and breadth of shoul­der." Five months of rough­ing it at sea have great­ly de­vel­oped a fig­ure, which, for all we know to the con­trary, may have been par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to such de­vel­op­ment. Add to all this, that his walk and bear­ing, his ac­cent, and man­ner of speak­ing would now, or might if he pleased, re­flect the sailor and you have a dis­guise which it would not be at all easy to pen­e­trate. It is, I sup­pose, a nov­el­ist's li­cence to as­sume a fin­ished sea­man in five months' time; but Edwin was in­tend­ed to be of a bold, prac­ti­cal, en­ter­pris­ing na­ture such as would take eas­i­ly and kind­ly to a life at sea. For ex­am­ple: he likes the idea of going abroad "to wake up Egypt" he "hates to be mod­dley cod­dleyed," and he ev­i­dent­ly de­spis­es seden­tary pur­suits, for when Neville Land­less asks him if he is read­ing: "'Read­ing,' re­turns Edwin some­what con­temptuously. 'No. Doing, work­ing, en­gi­neer­ing.'"

The pic­tures on the cover de­signed by Collins for the book en­tire­ly bear oat the idea that Tar­tar is Edwin Drood. On the left-hand top cor­ner a dark young man wear­ing a mous­tache is seen kneel­ing by Rosa at a gar­den seat. She has yield­ed her hand to him, will­ing­ly, if a lit­tle timid­ly, and he is rais­ing it to his lips. An al­le­gor­i­cal fig­ure repre­senting Joy is placed hov­er­ing right over them. The scene is ev­i­dent­ly meant to de­pict a suc­cess­ful love-suit, and the for­tu­nate wooer must con­se­quent­ly be Tar­tar. Op­po­site this pic­ture, on the right-hand side of the page, the same young man is seen bound­ing up the stairs of the Cathe­dral tower, in hot pur­suit of some one. He is the same, ex­cept in one lit­tle but sig­nif­i­cant par­tic­u­lar, name­ly that he does not wear a mous­tache! This in­con­sis­ten­cy is ac­count­ed for by cer­tain to­kens which show him to be iden­ti­cal not only with the young man who is mak­ing love to Rosa, but also with the re­turned Edwin Drood who is con­fronting Jasper in the vault at the bot­tom of the page! For in­stance, he is first in the line of that gen­tle­man's pur­suers, as he would nat­u­ral­ly be if he rushed out of the vault im­me­di­ate­ly after him; his hair is dis­ar­ranged (he has thrown aside the hat, and put on his wig again) and he has on a long coat reach­ing near­ly to the knees, like that worn by the young man in the vault!

By the time of Edwin Drood's re­turn Mr. Grew­gious has im­por­tant ev­i­dence in hand against Jasper, and a hope of clear­ing young Land­less more ef­fec­tu­al­ly than would be pos­si­ble through the medi­um of Edwin's con­fused recollec­tions. For this rea­son the old lawyer pro­ceed; war­i­ly, and Edwin de­lays to re­veal him­self, and lies hid­den at Sta­ple Inn.

But why does he not make him­self known at least to the un­for­tu­nate ac­cused, whom his safe­ty so vi­tal­ly con­cerns? The rea­son is pure­ly for Neville's own sake. They have never yet ven­tured to trust him with their sus­pi­cions of Jasper's guilt. He­le­na has feared too much the homi­ci­dal ten­den­cy he con­fessed to Mr. Crisparkle; and she feers it still more now that sus­pi­cion has ripened into cer­tain­ty, and that Jasper seems bent on pur­su­ing her broth­er at close quar­ters. Should the two ever come into con­tact, then, sup­pos­ing Neville pos­sessed of the truth, his weak will and un­govern­able tem­per might pre­cip­i­tate him into con­duct which would be the best tes­ti­mo­ny against him­self, and which might even ren­der him guilty of the very crime of which he was now hap­pi­ly in­no­cent. If he knew of Edwin's re­turn he would of course re­quire also an ex­pla­na­tion of his dis­ap­pear­ance, and all would have to be told.

Edwin Drood is not sorry for the en­forced delay. He blames his own un­friend­ly con­duct in the past, for all Neville's mis­for­tunes. He wish­es to gain his es­teem and af­fec­tion, and he knows there will be the bet­ter chance of this should they meet as strangers, and Neville be thus en­abled to admit his ad­vances with an open and un­bi­ased mind. Ed win, how­ev­er, is dis­ap­point­ed in being able to strike up a friend­ship as soon as he had ex­pect­ed with young Land­less. The lat­ter is quite a recluse: he ven­tures out of doors only under cover of the dark­ness; and to meet and ac­cost him then would be only to ex­cite his sus­pi­cions. Be­sides, he does not per­haps at first think it safe to be open­ly in communica­tion with him. Hence the ex­pe­di­ent of the run­ner beans, and the flow­ers. It may have been sug­gest­ed to Edwin by the find­ing of some boxes of flow­ers left in his rooms by a for­mer ten­ant; or he may have been in the habit of decora­ting his lodg­ings in this way, be­fore his dis­ap­pear­ance.

These too may have been the very lodg­ings he oc­cu­pied then; which cir­cum­stance would ac­count for his some­what gra­tu­itous ob­ser­va­tions to Neville, "I came here some nine months be­fore you. I had had a crop be­fore you came." They were but attic rooms it is true, but there is noth­ing to show that Edwin was at that time in par­tic­u­lar­ly flourish­ing cir­cum­stances.

Much of the au­thor's suc­cess in the work­ing up of Tar­tar is due to the sim­ple de­vice of omit­ting much in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing Edwin Drood. As al­ready point­ed out, no at­tempt is made to de­scribe his per­son­al ap­pear­ance. Nei­ther are any de­tails fur­nished as to his habits, tastes or dis­po­si­tion; nor any ref­er­ence made to the sit­u­a­tion of his lodg­ings in Lon­don. An ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ty oc­curs of throw­ing light on this lat­ter point, in that chap­ter where Edwin vis­its Mr. Grew­gious be­fore going down to Cloister­ham for Christ­mas. The marked at­ten­tion drawn to the young man's acute suf­fer­ings from fog on that oc­ca­sion, and to the cir­cum­stance of his being par­tic­u­lar­ly well wrapped up, would even seem the nat­u­ral pre­lude to a re­mark re­spect­ing the po­si­tion of the lo­cal­i­ty whence he had come, in re­la­tion to Sta­ple Inn. But the at­mo­sphere of fog, the great­coat and neck shawl are a blind, in­tend­ed to con­vey an er­ro­neous im­pres­sion of con­sid­er­able dis­tance be­tween Edwin's lodg­ings and Mr. Grew­gious' Cham­bers; there being in re­al­i­ty noth­ing to show that he came straight from his lodg­ings at all. It seems more prob­a­ble in­deed, that hav­ing spent the day at his of­fice he called in upon Mr. Grew­gious the last thing be­fore din­ing, and turn­ing in to his own rooms.

Tar­tar in­forms Neville that he has been adopt­ed by an uncle, who is a re­tired naval of­fi­cer. Again we do not know how true this may be. There is no uncle but Jasper pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned; but it is clear that Edwin has re­ceived fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance at this junc­ture, since he is able to re­turn to Eng­land a month be­fore mid­sum­mer, the time when his com­ing of age will make him legal­ly in­de­pen­dent of Jasper, who until then is his guardian. He ap­pears to be par­tic­u­lar­ly pros­per­ous and well set up. His rooms are fur­nished with var­i­ous ex­pen­sive lux­u­ries; he has a boat on the river, and a man ser­vant, Lob­ley. Tar­tar winds up his in­ter­view with Land­less by at­tempt­ing to ex­plain why he, a sailor, used to a free and roam­ing life from boy­hood, should coop him­self up in attic rooms the first thing on com­ing in for a for­tune! He speaks in a tone of "merry earnest­ness" in­tend­ed to con­vey that while he thor­ough­ly en­joys his hobby, he is at the same time quite ca­pa­ble of see­ing the ridicu­lous side of it. His ex­pla­na­tion is, how­ev­er, on the face of it, pure non­sense. If he is not Edwin Drood, there is no es­cap­ing the con­clu­sion that he is an ec­cen­tric; and while the pages of Dick­ens teem with ec­centrics I can­not re­call an in­stance where the hero who mar­ries the hero­ine is of that de­scrip­tion.

So far the mys­tery of Edwin. We come now to Jasper.

In the back­ground of the story there is a se­mi-East­ern ro­mance, the first scenes of which were doubt­less en­act­ed long be­fore the story opens. So many of the char­ac­ters are con­nect­ed with the East, that it is im­pos­si­ble to doubt that they are all like­wise con­nect­ed with one an­oth­er, through cir­cum­stances and events be­long­ing to a past per­haps re­mote. There is the Princess Puffer with her opium den, her China­men and Las­cars; there are the Droods, en­gi­neers, who have busi­ness deal­ings with the East; there are Neville and He­le­na Land­less, of dark com­plex­ion and mys­te­ri­ous parent­age from Cey­lon, and last­ly there is Jasper, dark- com­plex­ioned too, with rest­less blood and ter­ri­ble pas­sions, who raves in his drugged slum­bers of East­ern scenes, shows a knowl­edge of East­ern lan­guages, and has the crav­ing for opium in his blood.

If there be one thing more than an­oth­er that starts out from be­tween the lines con­cern­ing Jasper it is that he not only lived at one time in the East, but that he is part­ly of East­ern ex­trac­tion. There is no in­for­ma­tion given as to where the Jaspers came from. They were in all like­li­hood an En­glish fam­i­ly liv­ing in the East. It would have been a mere de­tail of Mr. Drood's con­nec­tion with that part of the world, that he should have mar­ried a wife out there. But Edwin Drood's moth­er, who was Miss Jasper, must have been al­to­geth­er En­glish, if we are to judge by her son, who is a true En­glish boy of the best type, sim­ple, hon­est, mer­ry-heart­ed, with Saxon hair and com­plex­ion. Jasper is dark; he smokes opium; he un­der­stands the mut­ter­ings of the Chi­na­man and Las­car in the opium den; his tem­per is fierce, his pas­sions un­con­trolled. Ev­ery­thing points him out as an Eurasian; yet he is ev­i­dent­ly pos­ing as a full-blood­ed En­glish­man, and full broth­er to Mrs. Drood. He is looked upon in this light by his par­tic­u­lar friend, the stupid Sapsea, whose one mo­tive for dis­lik­ing Neville Land­less is that his com­plex­ion is "un-En­glish." "And when Mr. Sapsea has once de­clared any­thing to be un-En­glish, he con­sid­ers that thing ev­er­last­ing­ly sunk in the bot­tom­less pit." There is but one con­clu­sion to be drawn from all this: Jasper is an im­pos­tor; and is ap­pro­pri­at­ing an­oth­er man's name and place. The au­thor is plain­ly pok­ing fun at the pompous auc­tion­eer when he makes him boast to his swarthy friend of his world-wide knowl­edge of men and things:

"'If I have not gone to for­eign coun­tries, young man, for­eign coun­tries have come to me. They have come to me in the way of busi­ness, and I have im­proved upon my oppor­tunities. Put it that I take an in­ven­to­ry, or make a cata­logue, I see a French clock. I never saw him be­fore in my life, but I in­stant­ly lay my fin­ger on him, and say ' Paris.' I see some cups and saucers of Chi­nese make, equal­ly strangers to me per­son­al­ly: I put my fin­ger on them then and there, and I say ' Pekin, Nankin, and Can­ton.' It is the same with Japan, with Egypt, and with bam­boo and san­dal-wood from the East In­dies; I put my fin­ger on them all...."'

But he can­not put his fin­ger on his wily flat­ter­er, and lo­cate him! There is a sad mor­ti­fi­ca­tion in store for poor Mr. Sapsea.

Not so eas­i­ly hood­winked is He­le­na Land­less! She takes par­tic­u­lar no­tice of Mr. Jasper on the oc­ca­sion of their first meet­ing. Straight from the East her­self she rec­og­nizes the Eurasian type; and hear­ing, as she eas­i­ly might from Rosa, that the Jaspers were all En­glish, she has this im­por­tant clue to put into the hands of Mr. Grew­gious upon Edwin's dis­ap­pear­ance. It will be re­mem­bered that when the old lawyer vis­its Jasper on the af­ter­noon of that Christ­mas Day, he ac­knowl­edges to hav­ing just had an in­ter­view with Miss Land­less; and he shows on that oc­ca­sion his convic­tion of the vil­lainy of Edwin's uncle, for the first time. "Let those whom it most con­cerned look well to it."

The Princess Puffer too shows a marked scorn for Jasper's pre­ten­tions to gen­til­i­ty: "My gen­tle­man from Clois­ter­ham," as she sar­cas­ti­cal­ly dubs him.

As­sum­ing then that he is an im­pos­tor, the ques­tion im­mediately sug­gests it­self: What be­came of the real John Jasper whom he is per­son­at­ing, and whom all Mrs. Drood's friends and re­la­tions be­lieve him to be?

It may be in­ferred, I think, that Jasper's at­tempt­ed mur­der of Edwin was not his first crime. There is some­thing to that ef­fect in­di­cat­ed, it seems to me, by the ghost­ly cries heard by Dur­dles in the Cathe­dral precincts. "The Ghost of one ter­rif­ic shriek, fol­lowed by the ghost of the howl of a dog: the long dis­mal woe­ful howl such as a dog gives when a per­son's dead." It was Mr. Lang's opin­ion that these sounds were pre­mon­i­to­ry only. But why then was Jasper star­tled on hear­ing them de­scribed? What sig­nif­i­cance could the dog's howl have had for him? Edwin did not so far as we know pos­sess a dog. Be­sides, the great final scene of the cap­ture on the tower must have had ref­er­ence to some­thing more se­ri­ous than at­tempt­ed mur­der, some­thing that would avail to rid a long-suf­fer­ing com­mu­ni­ty of Jasper for good. The ghost­ly sounds were doubt­less echoes of a past crime. And oc­cur­ring in con­nec­tion with the con­tem­plat­ed mur­der of Edwin, were ob­vi­ous­ly in­tend­ed to point out some as­so­ci­a­tion ex­ist­ing ac­tu­al­ly, or in Jasper's imag­i­na­tion, be­tween his real and his in­tend­ed vic­tim. This as­so­ci­a­tion would be eas­i­ly es­tab­lished upon the sup­po­si­tion that the mur­dered man was Edwin's uncle the true John Jasper.

The im­pos­tor would need to have an in­ti­mate knowl­edge of his vic­tim's fam­i­ly and af­fairs in order to per­son­ate him suc­cess­ful­ly. He was too young when the crime was com­mitted to have gained such knowl­edge in any con­fi­den­tial em­ploy­ment, or po­si­tion of trust. It is a more like­ly sup­position that he was re­lat­ed to the Jasper fam­i­ly, and on fa­mil­iar terms with some of its mem­bers. The Asi­at­ic strain in him is sug­ges­tive of il­le­git­i­ma­cy. If he were an elder broth­er with this stain upon him, this dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the rights and priv­i­leges oth­er­wise at­tach­ing to his se­nior­i­ty, then, vi­o­lent and un­prin­ci­pled as he was, there would have been suf­fi­cient in­duce­ment for his crime. The cir­cum­stance of such a re­la­tion­ship would give a deep­er sig­nif­i­cance to his ap­pro­pri­a­tion of the other's name and po­si­tion; and would ac­count more­over for his sin­gu­lar youth­ful­ness as a crim­i­nal. He is but twen­ty-six when the story opens, and is al­ready a good while in Clois­ter­ham. Or rather he is said to be twen­ty-six, be­cause this would have been the age of the gen­uine John Jasper, but he looks older, and may be so by a few years.

Dick­ens has more than once en­deav­ored to por­tray the jeal­ous an­tipa­thy which a man of sullen and un­gen­er­ous tem­per may en­ter­tain to­wards a broth­er whom he feels to be more for­tu­nate, or at least more pop­u­lar and de­serv­ing of good for­tune than him­self. Ralph Nick­le­by's dis­like of his nephew was part­ly due to the cir­cum­stance that Nicholas re­sem­bled his fa­ther, of whom Ralph had been jeal­ous. In "A Mur­der­er's Con­fes­sion," in Mas­ter Humphrey's Clock the crim­i­nal re­lates how the envy he had al­ways felt for his broth­er, be­cause of his hap­pi­er tem­per and greater popu­larity, de­vel­oped at length into a mor­bid pas­sion, and be­came the first cause of his af­ter-guilt.

Jasper must have dis­posed of his younger broth­er upon an oc­ca­sion when the lat­ter was being sent to Eng­land for some pur­pose, prob­a­bly for the ben­e­fit of his ed­u­ca­tion. Mr. Drood is said to have been early left a wid­ow­er. We may sup­pose there­fore that his wife was re­moved from the scene by this time, and that he had him­self never seen the younger mem­bers of her fam­i­ly. I have al­ready hint­ed at a pos­si­ble con­nec­tion in Jasper's mind be­tween the boy whom he had mur­dered and Edwin Drood. Dur­ing his dreams in the opium den he is ac­tu­al­ly con­fus­ing the two iden­ti­ties. He comes, as he tells the old woman, to go on a cer­tain jour­ney, with a cer­tain fel­low-trav­el­er. There is but a sin­gle jour­ney in view, and a sin­gle fel­low-trav­el­er; yet he pass­es in imag­i­na­tion through the scenes of his two dif­fer­ent crimes; and they fol­low each ether in or­der­ly suc­ces­sion, the older one being re-en­act­ed at the be­gin­ning, and that more re­cent­ly com­mit­ted, at the end of his dream.

"'It was a jour­ney,' he says, 'a dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous jour­ney, that was the sub­ject on my mind. 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 has dart­ed for­ward to say it, and to point at the ground at some imag­i­nary ob­ject far be­neath." This ob­ject was prob­a­bly the man­gled body of his vic­tim.

Now all this bears ref­er­ence, as I be­lieve, to his first crime. Mr. Lang in­deed sup­posed it to be Jasper's in­ten­tion at first to kill Edwin by push­ing him from the sum­mit of the tower; but this I do not think. The phan­tom cries heard in its vicin­i­ty by Dur­dles show the tower as­so­ci­at­ed in Jasper's imag­i­na­tion sole­ly with his for­mer crime; for since the dog's howl had, as al­ready point­ed out, no sig­nif­i­cance in re­la­tion to Edwin, so nei­ther had the shriek which pre­ced­ed, and was con­nect­ed with it as part of the same hap­pen­ing. Just such a "ter­rif­ic shriek" would a man give on being pre­cip­i­tat­ed to his death from a height, and this was doubt­less the fate of John Jasper. The fas­ci­na­tion then which the tower had for the mur­der­er lay in the cir­cum­stance that being so high and steep it aided his fevered imag­i­na­tion to re-en­act that by­gone deed in a glo­ri­ous­ly ex­ag­ger­at­ed form; for I do not doubt that his opi­um-sod­den mind was en­gaged by day as by night in the pur­suit of his "jour­ney."

He goes on: "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." Jasper as an East­ern be­lieves in re-in­car­na­tion, and he is here pic­tur­ing uncle and nephew as one man, whom he is pur­su­ing through" vast ex­pans­es of time "through two imag­i­nary phas­es of being, now one phase being pre­sent to his con­scious­ness, now an­oth­er; and as thus it seems to him that the mur­dered man was re­stored to life in Edwin, so he feels that the deed was not "re­al­ly done "till the lat­ter was dis­posed of; yet his mind mis­gives him with re­gard to this sec­ond at­tempt also. Ha­tred of course be­comes in­ten­si­fied with in­dulgence and new provo­ca­tion, and Jasper would there­fore seek a more dire re­venge the sec­ond time, and one bet­ter cal­cu­lat­ed to rid him of his enemy for good. I imag­ine that his ob­ject in using the quick­lime was not only to se­cure him­self against de­tec­tion by the most ef­fec­tu­al means, but to an­ni­hi­late as near­ly as pos­si­ble his de­test­ed enemy, to dis­pose of him as ab­so­lute­ly as it lay in his power to do.

Now the Princess Puffer knows the method by which he tried to mur­der Edwin, and so she is puz­zled by the down­ward point­ing fin­ger, and the words which ac­com­pa­ny it. She tries for an ex­pla­na­tion:

"I'll war­rant that you made the jour­ney in a many ways when you made it so often."

But no: it is al­ways one long jour­ney in two stages, and Jasper has never made it oth­er­wise. He an­swers her, "No: al­ways in one way." After some fur­ther talk he laps­es into si­lence for a while and then the dream pro­ceeds to a fin­ish. He is now oc­cu­pied only with the last stage of the jour­ney.

"What? I told you so. When it comes to be real at last it seems un­re­al for the first time. Hark! ... Time and place are both at hand." And later: "Hush! The jour­ney's made. It's over."

Dick­ens is said to have de­clared that a re­mark­able con­fession by the mur­der­er was to close the story. I be­lieve that the germ of the idea to be there brought to ma­tu­ri­ty may be found in the lit­tle sketch I have al­ready re­ferred to en­ti­tled "A Mur­der­er's Con­fes­sion." The sub­ject is that of a child who so re­sem­bles his dead moth­er in fea­ture and ex­pres­sion that it seems to the wretch who has feared and de­test­ed her al­most as if she had re­turned to life again, and re­sumed her old task of tor­ment­ing his guilty con­science in the per­son of her son. And the child falls a vic­tim at length to the in­sane fancy that "his moth­er's ghost was look­ing from his eyes." There is a sim­i­lar delu­sion at the bot­tom of the ex­traor­di­nary fas­ci­na­tion which Edwin ex­er­cis­es over Jasper.

"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, when­ever the Jasper face is ad­dressed in this di­rec­tion. And when­ev­er it is so ad­dressed, it is never, on this oc­ca­sion, or on any other, di­vid­ed­ly ad­dressed; it is al­ways con­centrated."

Edwin, we may sup­pose, re­sem­bles the mur­dered boy; and to the guilty imag­i­na­tion of the mur­der­er the soul of the dead looks out of the eyes of the liv­ing till the ha­tred still felt for the one be­comes grad­u­al­ly trans­ferred to the other.

It is his mad pas­sion for Rosa which in this sec­ond in­stance brings the feel­ing to a cli­max. Hate and love equal­ly extra­vagant, chain him to Clois­ter­ham, though he dis­likes the place, and his oc­cu­pa­tion in it. Part­ly to find re­lief from the monotony of his ex­is­tence, part­ly to in­dulge his fever­ish dreams of re­venge he cul­ti­vates the opium habit; and under the in­flu­ence of the drug, the con­nec­tion al­ready es­tab­lished be­tween John Jasper and Edwin Drood be­comes in­ten­si­fied, till, im­bued as he is with East­ern su­per­sti­tions, the nephew be­comes to him ver­i­ly a rein­car­na­tion of the uncle. The dis­eased state of Jasper's imag­i­na­tion would ac­count from a sci­en­tif­ic point of view for the shriek and dog's howl, heard by Dur­dles. Yet there is a sug­ges­tion about these sounds of some­thing sin­is­ter and weird. In that ter­ri­ble storm which wrench­es the hands off the tower clock, and dis­places the stones upon its sum­mit, we feel the pres­ence of some vin­dic­tive ex­ul­tant spir­it of evil, which fore­sees, and rev­els by an­tic­i­pa­tion in the strug­gle and the cap­ture des­tined to take place there a year hence. Like all phe­nom­e­na of that order these ghost­ly cries would be due to occur three con­sec­u­tive times; and are doubt­less re­peat­ed the night of the storm and heard, it may be, by Jasper him­self.

The lat­ter would seem to have over-reached him­self with Edwin, through the sheer ex­cess of his an­i­mos­i­ty. A swift and easy death for his vic­tim was ev­i­dent­ly no part of his de­sign. "No strug­gle, no con­scious­ness of peril, no en­treaty." he wails in the opium den. Did he then ex­pect such demon­stra­tions from a drugged and in­sen­si­ble man? No, his ob­ject was to drug his vic­tim just enough to keep him quiet for an hour or so; then to rob him of his watch chain and other ef­fects, to bind him hand and foot, and per­haps to cover him up to the neck with the quick­lime, after the man­ner of bury­ing alive in the East. The "dear boy" once safe­ly se­cured, and ren­dered help­less, was to re­cov­er con­scious­ness, to be over­whelmed with the pent-up wrath of years, mer­ci­less­ly gloat­ed over, and fi­nal­ly stran­gled with the long black scarf, upon which so much stress is laid.

This fiendish pro­ce­dure is well upon its way when Jasper be­gins to feel faint and dazed. The first symp­tom of the fit was ac­cord­ing to Mr. Tope "a re­mark­able short­ness of breath." This would oblige him in the first place to de­sist from his work, and would then con­strain him to leave the close air of the vault for the purer at­mo­sphere over­head, in the des­per­ate hope of staving off fail­ure, and dis­cov­ery. Ac­cord­ing­ly he rush­es out into the storm, wan­ders some dis­tance from the mon­u­ment, and then drops un­con­scious to the ground. Edwin's res­cuers would be pre­vent­ed from search­ing for him by the dark­ness and still more by the great wind. When at length in the early dawn, he comes to him­self, his mind is a par­tial blank with re­gard to the events of the night be­fore. He has en­joyed the deed so often in an­tic­i­pa­tion, that he can­not now sep­a­rate the dream from the re­al­i­ty. The locked door of the monu­ment, and the key and lantern lying be­side it, tes­ti­fy to a com­plet­ed work, as do also the watch and chain, and other things in his pos­ses­sion, and for the time being he is sat­is­fied.

"When it comes to be real at last it seems un­re­al for the first time.... Wait a lit­tle. This is a vi­sion. I shall sleep it off. It's been too short and easy, I must have a bet­ter vi­sion than this."

He can­not be­lieve in the re­al­i­ty of the un­sat­is­fac­to­ry ter­mi­na­tion of his jour­ney. He tells him­self it is but a vi­sion, and false.

"' —and yet I never saw that be­fore '—with a start.... ' Look at it! look what a poor, mean mis­er­able thing it is! That must be real. It's over!"'

What is it he sees now, that he has never seen be­fore? Why the break and the fail­ure, the com­ing on of that sud­den seizure to which he knows him­self sub­ject. It is only the Princess Puffer's mix­ing of the drug that en­ables him to enjoy a clear vi­sion of his evil deed; and this is the first time since its ac­com­plish­ment that he has come to her.

Jasper's an­i­mus against Neville Land­less arose from the fact that he looked upon Neville's love for Rosa as a con­templated rob­bery of him­self. Rosa was his law­ful spoil, the fruit of his vic­to­ry over a life-long foe; and that an­oth­er should seek to snatch her from him in the mo­ment of his tri­umph, was an "in­ex­pi­able of­fence" in his eyes. He had then a twofold ob­ject in rob­bing Edwin of his per­son­al ef­fects; first­ly to re­move ev­ery­thing which the quick­lime could not de­stroy, and sec­ond­ly to ob­tain means of incrimi­nating Land­less. There is some em­pha­sis laid upon an at­test­ed copy of Rosa's fa­ther's will, which at her re­quest was sent to Edwin a few days pre­vi­ous to his dis­ap­pear­ance; and which, owing to his un­busi­ness-like habits, which are spe­cial­ly men­tioned in that con­nec­tion, he prob­a­bly con­tinued to carry about his per­son. Jasper would glad­ly have pos­sessed him­self of this; and, the watch and chain hav­ing failed of their ob­ject, would seek to make it of use against Neville. The best way to do this would be to se­crete it in his rooms, and then cause a search to be made. Upon the tes­ti­mo­ny of such a paper found in his pos­ses­sion the un­for­tu­nate Land­less would be ar­rest­ed, tried, and al­most cer­tain­ly con­demned. Jasper's ob­ject in prowl­ing around the neigh­bor­hood of Sta­ple Inn may have been con­nect­ed with the car­ry­ing out of this pro­ject. I have an idea that at this junc­ture He­le­na saves her broth­er from the dis­tress of dis­cov­er­ing him­self to be the ob­ject of Jasper's pur­suit, by per­suad­ing him to re­move for his health to a safe dis­tance, and by her­self re­main­ing be­hind to per­son­ate him, and act as a shield be­tween him and Jasper. This would be the sig­nif­i­cance of their ex­traor­di­nary like­ness to one an­oth­er, and of the ad­mis­sion she made to Mr. Crisparkle that she would some­times, in play, as­sume Neville's clothes, and pass her­self off for him.

Mr. Grew­gious' first pro­ceed­ing on hear­ing from He­le­na of her sus­pi­cions con­cern­ing Jasper, would be to hunt up ev­i­dence against him in the East, and to en­deav­or to find out if any mem­ber of the Jasper fam­i­ly were still liv­ing. He may have dis­patched Baz­zard on some such er­rand. We have al­ready had a hint of an uncle of Edwin's in the back­ground. Let us sup­pose him to be an elder broth­er of Mr. Drood's, and of the young John Jasper's. He has come across Edwin dur­ing the lat­ter's wan­der­ings abroad; and now Mr. Grew­gious comes in touch with him: uncle and nephew re­turn to Eng­land; and it may be that while Edwin con­ceals him­self in Lon­don the uncle be­comes Mr. Datch­ery. He is de­scribed as hav­ing a mil­i­tary air and is taken by Sapsea for a re­tired naval or army of­fi­cer. He has as­sumed a dis­guise lest Jasper should rec­og­nize him; or if we like it bet­ter he is not in dis­guise at all. The au­thor's man­i­fest anx­i­ety to make it ap­pear as if he were may be mere­ly with the ob­ject of di­vert­ing sus­pi­cion from Tar­tar and lead­ing the read­er on a false scent after Edwin Drood. As Dick­ens is much given to evolv­ing re­la­tion­ships, I have a no­tion more­over that this uncle of Edwin's is also the fa­ther of Neville and He­le­na. That they are in some way con­nect­ed with the Droods and Jaspers is al­most a cer­tain­ty; and that the con­nec­tion is an hon­or­able one may be safe­ly de­ter­mined from the cir­cum­stance that He­le­na is des­tined to marry Mr. Crisparkle, and to prove an ac­cept­able daugh­ter-in-law to the some­what nar­row-mind­ed "China Shep­herdess."

Judg­ing from the dark com­plex­ions of the twins their fa­ther had con­tract­ed what would be con­sid­ered a dis­creditable mar­riage with an Eurasian. And we can con­ceive a mo­tive on the side of his fa­ther or other re­la­tions, for putting the chil­dren out of the way, sup­pos­ing the moth­er to have died in giv­ing them birth, dur­ing one of his ab­sences at sea.

The Princess Puffer is per­haps a for­mer nurse or ser­vant of the Jasper fam­i­ly, and it is through her that "Datch­ery" is led to the dis­cov­ery of his chil­dren. As Neville is in­tend­ed to die in the end, Edwin Drood would not be a loser by this new-found re­la­tion­ship, but would re­main still his uncle's heir.

When all is ready at length for Jasper's ex­po­sure and over­throw, a dra­mat­ic cli­max is pre­pared. He is fright­ened and lured back to the scene of his crime by means of Mr. Grew­gious' ring, which has been all the while in Edwin's pos­ses­sion. In fear and trem­bling he re-en­ters the vault; and there newly risen from the dead, and con­fronting him tri­umphant­ly be­side his open grave stands his mur­dered enemy! With a fright­ful scream he rush­es to the tower, the sailors, Mr. Crisparkle, and oth­ers in hot pur­suit. The pres­ence of so many stal­wart men mean but one thing, that he is cap­tured, and then and there ac­cused of the mur­der of John Jasper. All the in­iq­ui­ty of his life meets and over­whelms him here. No won­der then for so many rea­sons that the old grey tower of the En­glish Cathe­dral is mixed up with his vi­sions of East­ern scenes, and is not to be sep­a­rat­ed from them.

We may all imag­ine as we like best that happy con­clud­ing Christ­mas Day, when all se­crets are made known, and all wrongs set right; when Mr. Grew­gious and the new-found fa­ther and uncle shake hands again and again; when Edwin places on Rosa's fin­ger that ring he had never given back to Mr. Grew­gious; when Neville though dying now is happy in his re­stored rep­u­ta­tion and in the af­fec­tion of his rel­a­tives; when He­le­na re­joic­es in a fa­ther, a for­tune, and an hon­or­able parent­age, to say noth­ing of two very dear cousins, and per­haps best of all a chival­rous lover in Mr. Crisparkle. We may pic­ture them set on the high road to hap­pi­ness and pros­per­i­ty, in the good old style, and in Dick­ens' own best man­ner.

The mys­tery of Edwin Drood would have been free from the un­re­lieved gloom and drea­ri­ness which make Bleak House and Lit­tle Dor­rit such dis­mal read­ing. The lights would have been as bril­liant as the shade was deep. It is a mis­take to as­sume that be­cause Dick­ens was some­times care­less of con­struc­tion the plot of Edwin Drood must be full of weak­ness­es and in­con­sis­ten­cies. Here, per­haps for the first time, con­struc­tion was his prin­ci­pal ob­ject. He was chal­leng­ing com­par­i­son with books like the Moon­stone and was most un­like­ly there­fore to risk fail­ure by careless­ness of the gen­er­al ma­chin­ery of his plan, or want of atten­tion to de­tail. The story, had he lived to com­plete it, would have been a finer work from an artis­tic point of view than Wilkie Collins' mas­ter­piece; and the fact that he under­took to write it, chap­ter by chap­ter, with­out aid from notes or rough copy, is enough of it­self to show that he was in­deed a past mas­ter in the art of con­struc­tion.