Charles Dickens: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
by
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
iv p., 1 l., 210 p. front., illus. 24 cm
Fields, Osgood & co.,
Boston
1870

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CHAP­TER I
THE DAWN

An an­cient En­glish Cathe­dral Tower? How can the an­cient En­glish Cathe­dral tower be here! The well-known mas­sive gray square tower of its old Cathe­dral? How can that be here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, be­tween the eye and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike that in­ter­venes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the Sul­tan’s or­ders for the im­pal­ing of a horde of Turk­ish rob­bers, one by one. It is so, for cym­bals clash, and the Sul­tan goes by to his palace in long pro­ces­sion. Ten thou­sand scim­i­tars flash in the sun­light, and thrice ten thou­sand danc­ing-girls strew flow­ers. Then, fol­low white ele­phants ca­parisoned in count­less gor­geous colours, and in­fi­nite in num­ber and at­ten­dants. Still the Cathe­dral Tower rises in the back­ground, where it can­not be, and still no writhing fig­ure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the spike so low a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bed­stead that has tum­bled all awry? Some vague pe­ri­od of drowsy laugh­ter must be de­vot­ed to the con­sid­er­a­tion of this pos­si­bil­i­ty.

Shak­ing from head to foot, the man whose scat­tered con­scious­ness has thus fan­tas­ti­cal­ly pieced it­self to­geth­er, at length rises, sup­ports his trem­bling frame upon his arms, and looks around. He is in the mean­est and clos­est of small rooms. Through the ragged win­dow-cur­tain, the light of early day steals in from a mis­er­able court. He lies, dressed, across a large un­seem­ly bed, upon a bed­stead that has in­deed given way under the weight upon it. Lying, also dressed and also across the bed, not long­wise, are a Chi­na­man, a Las­car, and a hag­gard woman. The two first are in a sleep or stu­por; the last is blow­ing at a kind of pipe, to kin­dle it. And as she blows, and shad­ing it with her lean hand, con­cen­trates its red spark of light, it serves in the dim morn­ing as a lamp to show him what he sees of her.

‘An­oth­er?’ says this woman, in a queru­lous, rat­tling whis­per. ‘Have an­oth­er?’

He looks about him, with his hand to his fore­head.

‘Ye’ve smoked as many as five since ye come in at mid­night,’ the woman goes on, as she chron­i­cal­ly com­plains. ‘Poor me, poor me, my head is so bad. Them two come in after ye. Ah, poor me, the busi­ness is slack, is slack! Few Chi­na­men about the Docks, and fewer Las­cars, and no ships com­ing in, these say! Here’s an­oth­er ready for ye, deary. Ye’ll re­mem­ber like a good soul, won’t ye, that the mar­ket price is dr­ef­fle high just now? More nor three shillings and six­pence for a thim­ble­ful! And ye’ll re­mem­ber that no­body but me (and Jack Chi­na­man t’other side the court; but he can’t do it as well as me) has the true se­cret of mix­ing it? Ye’ll pay up ac­cord­ing­ly, deary, won’t ye?’

She blows at the pipe as she speaks, and, oc­ca­sion­al­ly bub­bling at it, in­hales much of its con­tents.

‘O me, O me, my lungs is weak, my lungs is bad! It’s near­ly ready for ye, deary. Ah, poor me, poor me, my poor hand shakes like to drop off! I see ye com­ing-to, and I ses to my poor self, “I’ll have an­oth­er ready for him, and he’ll bear in mind the mar­ket price of opium, and pay ac­cord­ing.” O my poor head! I makes my pipes of old penny ink-bot­tles, ye see, deary—this is one—and I fits-in a mouth­piece, this way, and I takes my mix­ter out of this thim­ble with this lit­tle horn spoon; and so I fills, deary. Ah, my poor nerves! I got Heav­ens-hard drunk for six­teen year afore I took to this; but this don’t hurt me, not to speak of. And it takes away the hunger as well as wit­tles, deary.’

She hands him the near­ly-emp­tied pipe, and sinks back, turn­ing over on her face.

He rises un­steadi­ly from the bed, lays the pipe upon the hearth-stone, draws back the ragged cur­tain, and looks with re­pug­nance at his three com­pan­ions. He no­tices that the woman has opi­um-smoked her­self into a strange like­ness of the Chi­na­man. His form of cheek, eye, and tem­ple, and his colour, are re­peat­ed in her. Said Chi­na­man con­vul­sive­ly wres­tles with one of his many Gods or Dev­ils, per­haps, and snarls hor­ri­bly. The Las­car laughs and drib­bles at the mouth. The host­ess is still.

‘What vi­sions can she have?’ the wak­ing man muses, as he turns her face to­wards him, and stands look­ing down at it. ‘Vi­sions of many butch­ers’ shops, and pub­lic-hous­es, and much cred­it? Of an in­crease of hideous cus­tomers, and this hor­ri­ble bed­stead set up­right again, and this hor­ri­ble court swept clean? What can she rise to, under any quan­ti­ty of opium, high­er than that!—Eh?’

He bends down his ear, to lis­ten to her mut­ter­ings.

‘Un­in­tel­li­gi­ble!’

As he watch­es the spas­mod­ic shoots and darts that break out of her face and limbs, like fit­ful light­ning out of a dark sky, some con­ta­gion in them seizes upon him: in­so­much that he has to with­draw him­self to a lean arm-chair by the hearth—placed there, per­haps, for such emer­gen­cies—and to sit in it, hold­ing tight, until he has got the bet­ter of this un­clean spir­it of im­i­ta­tion.

Then he comes back, pounces on the Chi­na­man, and seiz­ing him with both hands by the throat, turns him vi­o­lent­ly on the bed. The Chi­na­man clutch­es the ag­gres­sive hands, re­sists, gasps, and protests.

‘What do you say?’

A watch­ful pause.

‘Un­in­tel­li­gi­ble!’

Slow­ly loos­en­ing his grasp as he lis­tens to the in­co­her­ent jar­gon with an at­ten­tive frown, he turns to the Las­car and fair­ly drags him forth upon the floor. As he falls, the Las­car starts into a half-risen at­ti­tude, glares with his eyes, lash­es about him fierce­ly with his arms, and draws a phan­tom knife. It then be­comes ap­par­ent that the woman has taken pos­ses­sion of this knife, for safe­ty’s sake; for, she too start­ing up, and re­strain­ing and ex­pos­tu­lat­ing with him, the knife is vis­i­ble in her dress, not in his, when they drowsi­ly drop back, side by side.

There has been chat­ter­ing and clat­ter­ing enough be­tween them, but to no pur­pose. When any dis­tinct word has been flung into the air, it has had no sense or se­quence. Where­fore ‘un­in­tel­li­gi­ble!’ is again the com­ment of the watch­er, made with some re­as­sured nod­ding of his head, and a gloomy smile. He then lays cer­tain sil­ver money on the table, finds his hat, gropes his way down the bro­ken stairs, gives a good morn­ing to some rat-rid­den door­keep­er, in bed in a black hutch be­neath the stairs, and pass­es out.

That same af­ter­noon, the mas­sive gray square tower of an old Cathe­dral rises be­fore the sight of a jaded trav­eller. The bells are going for daily ves­per ser­vice, and he must needs at­tend it, one would say, from his haste to reach the open Cathe­dral door. The choir are get­ting on their sul­lied white robes, in a hurry, when he ar­rives among them, gets on his own robe, and falls into the pro­ces­sion fil­ing in to ser­vice. Then, the Sac­ristan locks the iron-barred gates that di­vide the sanc­tu­ary from the chan­cel, and all of the pro­ces­sion hav­ing scut­tled into their places, hide their faces; and then the in­toned words, ‘When the Wicked Man—’ rise among groins of arch­es and beams of roof, awak­en­ing mut­tered thun­der.


CHAP­TER II
A DEAN, AND A CHAP­TER ALSO

Whoso­ev­er has ob­served that se­date and cler­i­cal bird, the rook, may per­haps have no­ticed that when he wings his way home­ward to­wards night­fall, in a se­date and cler­i­cal com­pa­ny, two rooks will sud­den­ly de­tach them­selves from the rest, will re­trace their flight for some dis­tance, and will there poise and linger; con­vey­ing to mere men the fancy that it is of some oc­cult im­por­tance to the body politic, that this art­ful cou­ple should pre­tend to have re­nounced con­nec­tion with it.

Sim­i­lar­ly, ser­vice being over in the old Cathe­dral with the square tower, and the choir scuf­fling out again, and divers ven­er­a­ble per­sons of rook-like as­pect dis­pers­ing, two of these lat­ter re­trace their steps, and walk to­geth­er in the echo­ing Close.

Not only is the day wan­ing, but the year. The low sun is fiery and yet cold be­hind the monastery ruin, and the Vir­ginia creep­er on the Cathe­dral wall has show­ered half its deep-red leaves down on the pave­ment. There has been rain this af­ter­noon, and a win­try shud­der goes among the lit­tle pools on the cracked, un­even flag-stones, and through the giant elm-trees as they shed a gust of tears. Their fall­en leaves lie strewn thick­ly about. Some of these leaves, in a timid rush, seek sanc­tu­ary with­in the low arched Cathe­dral door; but two men com­ing out re­sist them, and cast them forth again with their feet; this done, one of the two locks the door with a good­ly key, and the other flits away with a folio mu­sic-book.

‘Mr. Jasper was that, Tope?’

‘Yes, Mr. Dean.’

‘He has stayed late.’

‘Yes, Mr. Dean. I have stayed for him, your Rev­er­ence. He has been took a lit­tle poor­ly.’

‘Say “taken,” Tope—to the Dean,’ the younger rook in­ter­pos­es in a low tone with this touch of cor­rec­tion, as who should say: ‘You may offer bad gram­mar to the laity, or the hum­bler cler­gy, not to the Dean.’

Mr. Tope, Chief Verg­er and Show­man, and ac­cus­tomed to be high with ex­cur­sion par­ties, de­clines with a silent lofti­ness to per­ceive that any sug­ges­tion has been ten­dered to him.

‘And when and how has Mr. Jasper been taken—for, as Mr. Crisparkle has re­marked, it is bet­ter to say taken—taken—’ re­peats the Dean; ‘when and how has Mr. Jasper been Taken—’

‘Taken, sir,’ Tope def­er­en­tial­ly mur­murs.

‘—Poor­ly, Tope?’

‘Why, sir, Mr. Jasper was that breathed—’

‘I wouldn’t say “That breathed,” Tope,’ Mr. Crisparkle in­ter­pos­es with the same touch as be­fore. ‘Not En­glish—to the Dean.’

‘Breathed to that ex­tent,’ the Dean (not un­flat­tered by this in­di­rect homage) con­de­scend­ing­ly re­marks, ‘would be prefer­able.’

‘Mr. Jasper’s breath­ing was so re­mark­ably short’—thus dis­creet­ly does Mr. Tope work his way round the sunken rock—‘when he came in, that it dis­tressed him might­i­ly to get his notes out: which was per­haps the cause of his hav­ing a kind of fit on him after a lit­tle. His mem­o­ry grew Dazed.’ Mr. Tope, with his eyes on the Rev­erend Mr. Crisparkle, shoots this word out, as de­fy­ing him to im­prove upon it: ‘and a dim­ness and gid­di­ness crept over him as strange as ever I saw: though he didn’t seem to mind it par­tic­u­lar­ly, him­self. How­ev­er, a lit­tle time and a lit­tle water brought him out of his Daze.’ Mr. Tope re­peats the word and its em­pha­sis, with the air of say­ing: ‘As I have made a suc­cess, I’ll make it again.’

‘And Mr. Jasper has gone home quite him­self, has he?’ asked the Dean.

‘Your Rev­er­ence, he has gone home quite him­self. And I’m glad to see he’s hav­ing his fire kin­dled up, for it’s chilly after the wet, and the Cathe­dral had both a damp feel and a damp touch this af­ter­noon, and he was very shiv­ery.’

They all three look to­wards an old stone gate­house cross­ing the Close, with an arched thor­ough­fare pass­ing be­neath it. Through its lat­ticed win­dow, a fire shines out upon the fast-dark­en­ing scene, in­volv­ing in shad­ow the pen­dent mass­es of ivy and creep­er cov­er­ing the build­ing’s front. As the deep Cathe­dral-bell strikes the hour, a rip­ple of wind goes through these at their dis­tance, like a rip­ple of the solemn sound that hums through tomb and tower, bro­ken niche and de­faced stat­ue, in the pile close at hand.

‘Is Mr. Jasper’s nephew with him?’ the Dean asks.

‘No, sir,’ replied the Verg­er, ‘but ex­pect­ed. There’s his own soli­tary shad­ow be­twixt his two win­dows—the one look­ing this way, and the one look­ing down into the High Street—draw­ing his own cur­tains now.’

‘Well, well,’ says the Dean, with a spright­ly air of break­ing up the lit­tle con­fer­ence, ‘I hope Mr. Jasper’s heart may not be too much set upon his nephew. Our af­fec­tions, how­ev­er laud­able, in this tran­si­to­ry world, should never mas­ter us; we should guide them, guide them. I find I am not dis­agree­ably re­mind­ed of my din­ner, by hear­ing my din­ner-bell. Per­haps, Mr. Crisparkle, you will, be­fore going home, look in on Jasper?’

‘Cer­tain­ly, Mr. Dean. And tell him that you had the kind­ness to de­sire to know how he was?’

‘Ay; do so, do so. Cer­tain­ly. Wished to know how he was. By all means. Wished to know how he was.’

With a pleas­ant air of pa­tron­age, the Dean as near­ly cocks his quaint hat as a Dean in good spir­its may, and di­rects his come­ly gaiters to­wards the ruddy din­ing-room of the snug old red-brick house where he is at pre­sent, ‘in res­i­dence’ with Mrs. Dean and Miss Dean.

Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon, fair and rosy, and per­pet­u­al­ly pitch­ing him­self head-fore­most into all the deep run­ning water in the sur­round­ing coun­try; Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon, early riser, mu­si­cal, clas­si­cal, cheer­ful, kind, good-na­tured, so­cial, con­tent­ed, and boy-like; Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon and good man, late­ly ‘Coach’ upon the chief Pagan high roads, but since pro­mot­ed by a pa­tron (grate­ful for a well-taught son) to his pre­sent Chris­tian beat; be­takes him­self to the gate­house, on his way home to his early tea.

‘Sorry to hear from Tope that you have not been well, Jasper.’

‘O, it was noth­ing, noth­ing!’

‘You look a lit­tle worn.’

‘Do I? O, I don’t think so. What is bet­ter, I don’t feel so. Tope has made too much of it, I sus­pect. It’s his trade to make the most of ev­ery­thing ap­per­tain­ing to the Cathe­dral, you know.’

‘I may tell the Dean—I call ex­press­ly from the Dean—that you are all right again?’

The reply, with a slight smile, is: ‘Cer­tain­ly; with my re­spects and thanks to the Dean.’

‘I’m glad to hear that you ex­pect young Drood.’

‘I ex­pect the dear fel­low every mo­ment.’

‘Ah! He will do you more good than a doc­tor, Jasper.’

‘More good than a dozen doc­tors. For I love him dear­ly, and I don’t love doc­tors, or doc­tors’ stuff.’

Mr. Jasper is a dark man of some six-and-twen­ty, with thick, lus­trous, well-ar­ranged black hair and whiskers. He looks older than he is, as dark men often do. His voice is deep and good, his face and fig­ure are good, his man­ner is a lit­tle som­bre. His room is a lit­tle som­bre, and may have had its in­flu­ence in form­ing his man­ner. It is most­ly in shad­ow. Even when the sun shines bril­liant­ly, it sel­dom touch­es the grand piano in the re­cess, or the folio mu­sic-books on the stand, or the book-shelves on the wall, or the un­fin­ished pic­ture of a bloom­ing school­girl hang­ing over the chim­ney­p­iece; her flow­ing brown hair tied with a blue riband, and her beau­ty re­mark­able for a quite child­ish, al­most baby­ish, touch of saucy dis­con­tent, com­i­cal­ly con­scious of it­self. (There is not the least artis­tic merit in this pic­ture, which is a mere daub; but it is clear that the painter has made it hu­mor­ous­ly—one might al­most say, re­venge­ful­ly—like the orig­i­nal.)

‘We shall miss you, Jasper, at the “Al­ter­nate Mu­si­cal Wednes­days” to-night; but no doubt you are best at home. Good-night. God bless you! “Tell me, shep-herds, te-e-ell me; tell me-e-e, have you seen (have you seen, have you seen, have you seen) my-y-y Flo-o-ora-a pass this way!”’ Melo­di­ous­ly good Minor Canon the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus Crisparkle thus de­liv­ers him­self, in mu­si­cal rhythm, as he with­draws his ami­able face from the door­way and con­veys it down-stairs.

Sounds of recog­ni­tion and greet­ing pass be­tween the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus and some­body else, at the stair-foot. Mr. Jasper lis­tens, starts from his chair, and catch­es a young fel­low in his arms, ex­claim­ing:

‘My dear Edwin!’

‘My dear Jack! So glad to see you!’

‘Get off your great­coat, bright boy, and sit down here in your own cor­ner. Your feet are not wet? Pull your boots off. Do pull your boots off.’

‘My dear Jack, I am as dry as a bone. Don’t mod­dley-cod­dley, there’s a good fel­low. I like any­thing bet­ter than being mod­dley-cod­dleyed.’

With the check upon him of being un­sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly re­strained in a ge­nial out­burst of en­thu­si­asm, Mr. Jasper stands still, and looks on in­tent­ly at the young fel­low, di­vest­ing him­self of his out­ward coat, hat, gloves, and so forth. 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.

‘Now I am right, and now I’ll take my cor­ner, Jack. Any din­ner, Jack?’

Mr. Jasper opens a door at the upper end of the room, and dis­clos­es a small inner room pleas­ant­ly light­ed and pre­pared, where­in a come­ly dame is in the act of set­ting dish­es on table.

‘What a jolly old Jack it is!’ cries the young fel­low, with a clap of his hands. ‘Look here, Jack; tell me; whose birth­day is it?’

‘Not yours, I know,’ Mr. Jasper an­swers, paus­ing to con­sid­er.

‘Not mine, you know? No; not mine, I know! Pussy’s!’

Fixed as the look the young fel­low meets, is, there is yet in it some strange power of sud­den­ly in­clud­ing the sketch over the chim­ney­p­iece.

‘Pussy’s, Jack! We must drink Many happy re­turns to her. Come, uncle; take your du­ti­ful and sharp-set nephew in to din­ner.’

As the boy (for he is lit­tle more) lays a hand on Jasper’s shoul­der, Jasper cor­dial­ly and gaily lays a hand on his shoul­der, and so Mar­seil­laise-wise they go in to din­ner.

‘And, Lord! here’s Mrs. Tope!’ cries the boy. ‘Love­li­er than ever!’

‘Never you mind me, Mas­ter Edwin,’ re­torts the Verg­er’s wife; ‘I can take care of my­self.’

‘You can’t. You’re much too hand­some. Give me a kiss be­cause it’s Pussy’s birth­day.’

‘I’d Pussy you, young man, if I was Pussy, as you call her,’ Mrs. Tope blush­ing­ly re­torts, after being salut­ed. ‘Your uncle’s too much wrapt up in you, that’s where it is. He makes so much of you, that it’s my opin­ion you think you’ve only to call your Pussys by the dozen, to make ’em come.’

‘You for­get, Mrs. Tope,’ Mr. Jasper in­ter­pos­es, tak­ing his place at the table with a ge­nial smile, ‘and so do you, Ned, that Uncle and Nephew are words pro­hib­it­ed here by com­mon con­sent and ex­press agree­ment. For what we are going to re­ceive His holy name be praised!’

‘Done like the Dean! Wit­ness, Edwin Drood! Please to carve, Jack, for I can’t.’

This sally ush­ers in the din­ner. Lit­tle to the pre­sent pur­pose, or to any pur­pose, is said, while it is in course of being dis­posed of. At length the cloth is drawn, and a dish of wal­nuts and a de­canter of rich-coloured sher­ry are placed upon the table.

‘I say! Tell me, Jack,’ the young fel­low then flows on: ‘do you re­al­ly and truly feel as if the men­tion of our re­la­tion­ship di­vid­ed us at all? I don’t.’

‘Un­cles as a rule, Ned, are so much older than their nephews,’ is the reply, ‘that I have that feel­ing in­stinc­tive­ly.’

‘As a rule! Ah, may-be! But what is a dif­fer­ence in age of half-a-dozen years or so? And some un­cles, in large fam­i­lies, are even younger than their nephews. By George, I wish it was the case with us!’

‘Why?’

‘Be­cause if it was, I’d take the lead with you, Jack, and be as wise as Be­gone, dull Care! that turned a young man gray, and Be­gone, dull Care! that turned an old man to clay.—Hal­loa, Jack! Don’t drink.’

‘Why not?’

‘Asks why not, on Pussy’s birth­day, and no Happy re­turns pro­posed! Pussy, Jack, and many of ’em! Happy re­turns, I mean.’

Lay­ing an af­fec­tion­ate and laugh­ing touch on the boy’s ex­tend­ed hand, as if it were at once his giddy head and his light heart, Mr. Jasper drinks the toast in si­lence.

‘Hip, hip, hip, and nine times nine, and one to fin­ish with, and all that, un­der­stood. Hooray, hooray, hooray!—And now, Jack, let’s have a lit­tle talk about Pussy. Two pairs of nut-crack­ers? Pass me one, and take the other.’ Crack. ‘How’s Pussy get­ting on Jack?’

‘With her music? Fair­ly.’

‘What a dread­ful­ly con­sci­en­tious fel­low you are, Jack! But I know, Lord bless you! Inat­ten­tive, isn’t she?’

‘She can learn any­thing, if she will.’

‘If she will! Egad, that’s it. But if she won’t?’

Crack!—on Mr. Jasper’s part.

‘How’s she look­ing, Jack?’

Mr. Jasper’s con­cen­trat­ed face again in­cludes the por­trait as he re­turns: ‘Very like your sketch in­deed.’

‘I am a lit­tle proud of it,’ says the young fel­low, glanc­ing up at the sketch with com­pla­cen­cy, and then shut­ting one eye, and tak­ing a cor­rect­ed prospect of it over a level bridge of nut-crack­ers in the air: ‘Not badly hit off from mem­o­ry. But I ought to have caught that ex­pres­sion pret­ty well, for I have seen it often enough.’

Crack!—on Edwin Drood’s part.

Crack!—on Mr. Jasper’s part.

‘In point of fact,’ the for­mer re­sumes, after some silent dip­ping among his frag­ments of wal­nut with an air of pique, ‘I see it when­ev­er I go to see Pussy. If I don’t find it on her face, I leave it there.—You know I do, Miss Scorn­ful Pert. Booh!’ With a twirl of the nut-crack­ers at the por­trait.

Crack! crack! crack. Slow­ly, on Mr. Jasper’s part.

Crack. Sharply on the part of Edwin Drood.

Si­lence on both sides.

‘Have you lost your tongue, Jack?’

‘Have you found yours, Ned?’

‘No, but re­al­ly;—isn’t it, you know, after all—’

Mr. Jasper lifts his dark eye­brows in­quir­ing­ly.

‘Isn’t it un­sat­is­fac­to­ry to be cut off from choice in such a mat­ter? There, Jack! I tell you! If I could choose, I would choose Pussy from all the pret­ty girls in the world.’

‘But you have not got to choose.’

‘That’s what I com­plain of. My dead and gone fa­ther and Pussy’s dead and gone fa­ther must needs marry us to­geth­er by an­tic­i­pa­tion. Why the—Devil, I was going to say, if it had been re­spect­ful to their mem­o­ry—couldn’t they leave us alone?’

‘Tut, tut, dear boy,’ Mr. Jasper re­mon­strates, in a tone of gen­tle dep­re­ca­tion.

‘Tut, tut? Yes, Jack, it’s all very well for you. You can take it eas­i­ly. Your life is not laid down to scale, and lined and dot­ted out for you, like a sur­vey­or’s plan. You have no un­com­fort­able sus­pi­cion that you are forced upon any­body, nor has any­body an un­com­fort­able sus­pi­cion that she is forced upon you, or that you are forced upon her. You can choose for your­self. Life, for you, is a plum with the nat­u­ral bloom on; it hasn’t been over-care­ful­ly wiped off for you—’

‘Don’t stop, dear fel­low. Go on.’

‘Can I any­how have hurt your feel­ings, Jack?’

‘How can you have hurt my feel­ings?’

‘Good Heav­en, Jack, you look fright­ful­ly ill! There’s a strange film come over your eyes.’

Mr. Jasper, with a forced smile, stretch­es out his right hand, as if at once to dis­arm ap­pre­hen­sion and gain time to get bet­ter. After a while he says faint­ly:

‘I have been tak­ing opium for a pain—an agony—that some­times over­comes me. The ef­fects of the medicine steal over me like a blight or a cloud, and pass. You see them in the act of pass­ing; they will be gone di­rect­ly. Look away from me. They will go all the soon­er.’

With a scared face the younger man com­plies by cast­ing his eyes down­ward at the ashes on the hearth. Not re­lax­ing his own gaze on the fire, but rather strength­en­ing it with a fierce, firm grip upon his el­bow-chair, the elder sits for a few mo­ments rigid, and then, with thick drops stand­ing on his fore­head, and a sharp catch of his breath, be­comes as he was be­fore. On his so sub­sid­ing in his chair, his nephew gen­tly and as­sid­u­ous­ly tends him while he quite re­cov­ers. When Jasper is re­stored, he lays a ten­der hand upon his nephew’s shoul­der, and, in a tone of voice less trou­bled than the pur­port of his words—in­deed with some­thing of raillery or ban­ter in it—thus ad­dress­es him:

‘There is said to be a hid­den skele­ton in every house; but you thought there was none in mine, dear Ned.’

‘Upon my life, Jack, I did think so. How­ev­er, when I come to con­sid­er that even in Pussy’s house—if she had one—and in mine—if I had one—’

‘You were going to say (but that I in­ter­rupt­ed you in spite of my­self) what a quiet life mine is. No whirl and up­roar around me, no dis­tract­ing com­merce or cal­cu­la­tion, no risk, no change of place, my­self de­vot­ed to the art I pur­sue, my busi­ness my plea­sure.’

‘I re­al­ly was going to say some­thing of the kind, Jack; but you see, you, speak­ing of your­self, al­most nec­es­sar­i­ly leave out much that I should have put in. For in­stance: I should have put in the fore­ground your being so much re­spect­ed as Lay Pre­cen­tor, or Lay Clerk, or what­ev­er you call it, of this Cathe­dral; your en­joy­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of hav­ing done such won­ders with the choir; your choos­ing your so­ci­ety, and hold­ing such an in­de­pen­dent po­si­tion in this queer old place; your gift of teach­ing (why, even Pussy, who don’t like being taught, says there never was such a Mas­ter as you are!), and your con­nex­ion.’

‘Yes; I saw what you were tend­ing to. I hate it.’

‘Hate it, Jack?’ (Much be­wil­dered.)

‘I hate it. The cramped monotony of my ex­is­tence grinds me away by the grain. How does our ser­vice sound to you?’

‘Beau­ti­ful! Quite ce­les­tial!’

‘It often sounds to me quite dev­il­ish. I am so weary of it. The echoes of my own voice among the arch­es seem to mock me with my daily drudg­ing round. No wretched monk who droned his life away in that gloomy place, be­fore me, can have been more tired of it than I am. He could take for re­lief (and did take) to carv­ing demons out of the stalls and seats and desks. What shall I do? Must I take to carv­ing them out of my heart?’

‘I thought you had so ex­act­ly found your niche in life, Jack,’ Edwin Drood re­turns, as­ton­ished, bend­ing for­ward in his chair to lay a sym­pa­thet­ic hand on Jasper’s knee, and look­ing at him with an anx­ious face.

‘I know you thought so. They all think so.’

‘Well, I sup­pose they do,’ says Edwin, med­i­tat­ing aloud. ‘Pussy thinks so.’

‘When did she tell you that?’

‘The last time I was here. You re­mem­ber when. Three months ago.’

‘How did she phrase it?’

‘O, she only said that she had be­come your pupil, and that you were made for your vo­ca­tion.’

The younger man glances at the por­trait. The elder sees it in him.

‘Any­how, my dear Ned,’ Jasper re­sumes, as he shakes his head with a grave cheer­ful­ness, ‘I must sub­due my­self to my vo­ca­tion: which is much the same thing out­ward­ly. It’s too late to find an­oth­er now. This is a con­fi­dence be­tween us.’

‘It shall be sa­cred­ly pre­served, Jack.’

‘I have re­posed it in you, be­cause—’

‘I feel it, I as­sure you. Be­cause we are fast friends, and be­cause you love and trust me, as I love and trust you. Both hands, Jack.’

As each stands look­ing into the other’s eyes, and as the uncle holds the nephew’s hands, the uncle thus pro­ceeds:

‘You know now, don’t you, that even a poor monotonous cho­ris­ter and grinder of music—in his niche—may be trou­bled with some stray sort of am­bi­tion, as­pi­ra­tion, rest­less­ness, dis­sat­is­fac­tion, what shall we call it?’

‘Yes, dear Jack.’

‘And you will re­mem­ber?’

‘My dear Jack, I only ask you, am I like­ly to for­get what you have said with so much feel­ing?’

‘Take it as a warn­ing, then.’

In the act of hav­ing his hands re­leased, and of mov­ing a step back, Edwin paus­es for an in­stant to con­sid­er the ap­pli­ca­tion of these last words. The in­stant over, he says, sen­si­bly touched:

‘I am afraid I am but a shal­low, sur­face kind of fel­low, Jack, and that my head­piece is none of the best. But I needn’t say I am young; and per­haps I shall not grow worse as I grow older. At all events, I hope I have some­thing im­press­ible with­in me, which feels—deeply feels—the dis­in­ter­est­ed­ness of your painful­ly lay­ing your inner self bare, as a warn­ing to me.’

Mr. Jasper’s steadi­ness of face and fig­ure be­comes so mar­vel­lous that his breath­ing seems to have stopped.

‘I couldn’t fail to no­tice, Jack, that it cost you a great ef­fort, and that you were very much moved, and very un­like your usual self. Of course I knew that you were ex­treme­ly fond of me, but I re­al­ly was not pre­pared for your, as I may say, sac­ri­fic­ing your­self to me in that way.’

Mr. Jasper, be­com­ing a breath­ing man again with­out the small­est stage of tran­si­tion be­tween the two ex­treme states, lifts his shoul­ders, laughs, and waves his right arm.

‘No; don’t put the sen­ti­ment away, Jack; please don’t; for I am very much in earnest. I have no doubt that that un­healthy state of mind which you have so pow­er­ful­ly de­scribed is at­tend­ed with some real suf­fer­ing, and is hard to bear. But let me re­as­sure you, Jack, as to the chances of its over­com­ing me. I don’t think I am in the way of it. In some few months less than an­oth­er year, you know, I shall carry Pussy off from school as Mrs. Edwin Drood. I shall then go en­gi­neer­ing into the East, and Pussy with me. And al­though we have our lit­tle tiffs now, aris­ing out of a cer­tain un­avoid­able flat­ness that at­tends our love-mak­ing, owing to its end being all set­tled be­fore­hand, still I have no doubt of our get­ting on cap­i­tal­ly then, when it’s done and can’t be helped. In short, Jack, to go back to the old song I was freely quot­ing at din­ner (and who knows old songs bet­ter than you?), my wife shall dance, and I will sing, so mer­ri­ly pass the day. Of Pussy’s being beau­ti­ful there can­not be a doubt;—and when you are good be­sides, Lit­tle Miss Im­pu­dence,’ once more apos­trophis­ing the por­trait, ‘I’ll burn your comic like­ness, and paint your mu­sic-mas­ter an­oth­er.’

Mr. Jasper, with his hand to his chin, and with an ex­pres­sion of mus­ing benev­o­lence on his face, has at­ten­tive­ly watched every an­i­mat­ed look and ges­ture at­tend­ing the de­liv­ery of these words. He re­mains in that at­ti­tude after they, are spo­ken, as if in a kind of fas­ci­na­tion at­ten­dant on his strong in­ter­est in the youth­ful spir­it that he loves so well. Then he says with a quiet smile:

‘You won’t be warned, then?’

‘No, Jack.’

‘You can’t be warned, then?’

‘No, Jack, not by you. Be­sides that I don’t re­al­ly con­sid­er my­self in dan­ger, I don’t like your putting your­self in that po­si­tion.’

‘Shall we go and walk in the church­yard?’

‘By all means. You won’t mind my slip­ping out of it for half a mo­ment to the Nuns’ House, and leav­ing a par­cel there? Only gloves for Pussy; as many pairs of gloves as she is years old to-day. Rather po­et­i­cal, Jack?’

Mr. Jasper, still in the same at­ti­tude, mur­murs: ‘“Noth­ing half so sweet in life,” Ned!’

‘Here’s the par­cel in my great­coat-pock­et. They must be pre­sent­ed to-night, or the po­et­ry is gone. It’s against reg­u­la­tions for me to call at night, but not to leave a pack­et. I am ready, Jack!’

Mr. Jasper dis­solves his at­ti­tude, and they go out to­geth­er.


CHAP­TER III
THE NUNS’ HOUSE

For suf­fi­cient rea­sons, which this nar­ra­tive will it­self un­fold as it ad­vances, a fic­ti­tious name must be be­stowed upon the old Cathe­dral town. Let it stand in these pages as Clois­ter­ham. It was once pos­si­bly known to the Druids by an­oth­er name, and cer­tain­ly to the Ro­mans by an­oth­er, and to the Sax­ons by an­oth­er, and to the Nor­mans by an­oth­er; and a name more or less in the course of many cen­turies can be of lit­tle mo­ment to its dusty chron­i­cles.

An an­cient city, Clois­ter­ham, and no meet dwelling-place for any one with han­ker­ings after the noisy world. A monotonous, silent city, de­riv­ing an earthy flavour through­out from its Cathe­dral crypt, and so abound­ing in ves­tiges of monas­tic graves, that the Clois­ter­ham chil­dren grow small salad in the dust of ab­bots and abbess­es, and make dirt-pies of nuns and fri­ars; while every plough­man in its out­ly­ing fields ren­ders to once puis­sant Lord Trea­sur­ers, Arch­bish­ops, Bish­ops, and such-like, the at­ten­tion which the Ogre in the sto­ry-book de­sired to ren­der to his un­bid­den vis­i­tor, and grinds their bones to make his bread.

A drowsy city, Clois­ter­ham, whose in­hab­i­tants seem to sup­pose, with an in­con­sis­ten­cy more strange than rare, that all its changes lie be­hind it, and that there are no more to come. A queer moral to de­rive from an­tiq­ui­ty, yet older than any trace­able an­tiq­ui­ty. So silent are the streets of Clois­ter­ham (though prone to echo on the small­est provo­ca­tion), that of a sum­mer-day the sun­blinds of its shops scarce dare to flap in the south wind; while the sun-browned tramps, who pass along and stare, quick­en their limp a lit­tle, that they may the soon­er get be­yond the con­fines of its op­pres­sive re­spectabil­i­ty. This is a feat not dif­fi­cult of achieve­ment, see­ing that the streets of Clois­ter­ham city are lit­tle more than one nar­row street by which you get into it and get out of it: the rest being most­ly dis­ap­point­ing yards with pumps in them and no thor­ough­fare—ex­cep­tion made of the Cathe­dral-close, and a paved Quak­er set­tle­ment, in colour and gen­er­al con­fir­ma­tion very like a Quak­er­ess’s bon­net, up in a shady cor­ner.

In a word, a city of an­oth­er and a by­gone time is Clois­ter­ham, with its hoarse Cathe­dral-bell, its hoarse rooks hov­er­ing about the Cathe­dral tower, its hoars­er and less dis­tinct rooks in the stalls far be­neath. Frag­ments of old wall, saint’s chapel, chap­ter-house, con­vent and monastery, have got in­con­gru­ous­ly or ob­struc­tive­ly built into many of its hous­es and gar­dens, much as kin­dred jum­bled no­tions have be­come in­cor­po­rat­ed into many of its cit­i­zens’ minds. All things in it are of the past. Even its sin­gle pawn­bro­ker takes in no pledges, nor has he for a long time, but of­fers vain­ly an unre­deemed stock for sale, of which the costli­er ar­ti­cles are dim and pale old watch­es ap­par­ent­ly in a slow per­spi­ra­tion, tar­nished sug­ar-tongs with in­ef­fec­tu­al legs, and odd vol­umes of dis­mal books. The most abun­dant and the most agree­able ev­i­dences of pro­gress­ing life in Clois­ter­ham are the ev­i­dences of veg­etable life in many gar­dens; even its droop­ing and de­spon­dent lit­tle the­atre has its poor strip of gar­den, re­ceiv­ing the foul fiend, when he ducks from its stage into the in­fer­nal re­gions, among scar­let-beans or oys­ter-shells, ac­cord­ing to the sea­son of the year.

In the midst of Clois­ter­ham stands the Nuns’ House: a ven­er­a­ble brick ed­i­fice, whose pre­sent ap­pel­la­tion is doubt­less de­rived from the leg­end of its con­ven­tu­al uses. On the trim gate en­clos­ing its old court­yard is a re­splen­dent brass plate flash­ing forth the leg­end: ‘Sem­i­nary for Young Ladies. Miss Twin­kle­ton.’ The house-front is so old and worn, and the brass plate is so shin­ing and star­ing, that the gen­er­al re­sult has re­mind­ed imag­i­na­tive strangers of a bat­tered old beau with a large mod­ern eye-glass stuck in his blind eye.

Whether the nuns of yore, being of a sub­mis­sive rather than a stiff-necked gen­er­a­tion, ha­bit­u­al­ly bent their con­tem­pla­tive heads to avoid col­li­sion with the beams in the low ceil­ings of the many cham­bers of their House; whether they sat in its long low win­dows telling their beads for their mor­ti­fi­ca­tion, in­stead of mak­ing neck­laces of them for their adorn­ment; whether they were ever walled up alive in odd an­gles and jut­ting gables of the build­ing for hav­ing some in­erad­i­ca­ble leav­en of busy moth­er Na­ture in them which has kept the fer­ment­ing world alive ever since; these may be mat­ters of in­ter­est to its haunt­ing ghosts (if any), but con­sti­tute no item in Miss Twin­kle­ton’s half-year­ly ac­counts. They are nei­ther of Miss Twin­kle­ton’s in­clu­sive reg­u­lars, nor of her ex­tras. The lady who un­der­takes the po­et­i­cal de­part­ment of the es­tab­lish­ment at so much (or so lit­tle) a quar­ter has no pieces in her list of recitals bear­ing on such un­prof­itable ques­tions.

As, in some cases of drunk­en­ness, and in oth­ers of an­i­mal mag­netism, there are two states of con­scious­ness which never clash, but each of which pur­sues its sep­a­rate course as though it were con­tin­u­ous in­stead of bro­ken (thus, if I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again be­fore I can re­mem­ber where), so Miss Twin­kle­ton has two dis­tinct and sep­a­rate phas­es of being. Every night, the mo­ment the young ladies have re­tired to rest, does Miss Twin­kle­ton smarten up her curls a lit­tle, bright­en up her eyes a lit­tle, and be­come a sprightli­er Miss Twin­kle­ton than the young ladies have ever seen. Every night, at the same hour, does Miss Twin­kle­ton re­sume the top­ics of the pre­vi­ous night, com­pre­hend­ing the ten­der­er scan­dal of Clois­ter­ham, of which she has no knowl­edge what­ev­er by day, and ref­er­ences to a cer­tain sea­son at Tun­bridge Wells (air­i­ly called by Miss Twin­kle­ton in this state of her ex­is­tence ‘The Wells’), no­tably the sea­son where­in a cer­tain fin­ished gen­tle­man (com­pas­sion­ate­ly called by Miss Twin­kle­ton, in this stage of her ex­is­tence, ‘Fool­ish Mr. Porters’) re­vealed a homage of the heart, where­of Miss Twin­kle­ton, in her scholas­tic state of ex­is­tence, is as ig­no­rant as a gran­ite pil­lar. Miss Twin­kle­ton’s com­pan­ion in both states of ex­is­tence, and equal­ly adapt­able to ei­ther, is one Mrs. Tish­er: a def­er­en­tial widow with a weak back, a chron­ic sigh, and a sup­pressed voice, who looks after the young ladies’ wardrobes, and leads them to infer that she has seen bet­ter days. Per­haps this is the rea­son why it is an ar­ti­cle of faith with the ser­vants, hand­ed down from race to race, that the de­part­ed Tish­er was a hair­dress­er.

The pet pupil of the Nuns’ House is Miss Rosa Bud, of course called Rose­bud; won­der­ful­ly pret­ty, won­der­ful­ly child­ish, won­der­ful­ly whim­si­cal. An awk­ward in­ter­est (awk­ward be­cause ro­man­tic) at­tach­es to Miss Bud in the minds of the young ladies, on ac­count of its being known to them that a hus­band has been cho­sen for her by will and be­quest, and that her guardian is bound down to be­stow her on that hus­band when he comes of age. Miss Twin­kle­ton, in her sem­i­nar­i­al state of ex­is­tence, has com­bat­ed the ro­man­tic as­pect of this des­tiny by af­fect­ing to shake her head over it be­hind Miss Bud’s dim­pled shoul­ders, and to brood on the un­hap­py lot of that doomed lit­tle vic­tim. But with no bet­ter ef­fect—pos­si­bly some un­felt touch of fool­ish Mr. Porters has un­der­mined the en­deav­our—than to evoke from the young ladies an unan­i­mous bed­cham­ber cry of ‘O, what a pre­tend­ing old thing Miss Twin­kle­ton is, my dear!’

The Nuns’ House is never in such a state of flut­ter as when this al­lot­ted hus­band calls to see lit­tle Rose­bud. (It is unan­i­mous­ly un­der­stood by the young ladies that he is law­ful­ly en­ti­tled to this priv­i­lege, and that if Miss Twin­kle­ton dis­put­ed it, she would be in­stant­ly taken up and trans­port­ed.) When his ring at the gate-bell is ex­pect­ed, or takes place, every young lady who can, under any pre­tence, look out of win­dow, looks out of win­dow; while every young lady who is ‘prac­tis­ing,’ prac­tis­es out of time; and the French class be­comes so de­mor­alised that the mark goes round as briskly as the bot­tle at a con­vivial party in the last cen­tu­ry.

On the af­ter­noon of the day next after the din­ner of two at the gate­house, the bell is rung with the usual flut­ter­ing re­sults.

‘Mr. Edwin Drood to see Miss Rosa.’

This is the an­nounce­ment of the par­lour-maid in chief. Miss Twin­kle­ton, with an ex­em­plary air of melan­choly on her, turns to the sac­ri­fice, and says, ‘You may go down, my dear.’ Miss Bud goes down, fol­lowed by all eyes.

Mr. Edwin Drood is wait­ing in Miss Twin­kle­ton’s own par­lour: a dain­ty room, with noth­ing more di­rect­ly scholas­tic in it than a ter­res­tri­al and a ce­les­tial globe. These ex­pres­sive ma­chines imply (to par­ents and guardians) that even when Miss Twin­kle­ton re­tires into the bosom of pri­va­cy, duty may at any mo­ment com­pel her to be­come a sort of Wan­der­ing Jew­ess, scour­ing the earth and soar­ing through the skies in search of knowl­edge for her pupils.

The last new maid, who has never seen the young gen­tle­man Miss Rosa is en­gaged to, and who is mak­ing his ac­quain­tance be­tween the hinges of the open door, left open for the pur­pose, stum­bles guilti­ly down the kitchen stairs, as a charm­ing lit­tle ap­pari­tion, with its face con­cealed by a lit­tle silk apron thrown over its head, glides into the par­lour.

‘O! it is so ridicu­lous!’ says the ap­pari­tion, stop­ping and shrink­ing. ‘Don’t, Eddy!’

‘Don’t what, Rosa?’

‘Don’t come any near­er, please. It is so ab­surd.’

‘What is ab­surd, Rosa?’

‘The whole thing is. It is so ab­surd to be an en­gaged or­phan and it is so ab­surd to have the girls and the ser­vants scut­tling about after one, like mice in the wain­scot; and it is so ab­surd to be called upon!’

The ap­pari­tion ap­pears to have a thumb in the cor­ner of its mouth while mak­ing this com­plaint.

‘You give me an af­fec­tion­ate re­cep­tion, Pussy, I must say.’

‘Well, I will in a minute, Eddy, but I can’t just yet. How are you?’ (very short­ly.)

‘I am un­able to reply that I am much the bet­ter for see­ing you, Pussy, inas­much as I see noth­ing of you.’

This sec­ond re­mon­strance brings a dark, bright, pout­ing eye out from a cor­ner of the apron; but it swift­ly be­comes in­vis­i­ble again, as the ap­pari­tion ex­claims: ‘O good gra­cious! you have had half your hair cut off!’

‘I should have done bet­ter to have had my head cut off, I think,’ says Edwin, rum­pling the hair in ques­tion, with a fierce glance at the look­ing-glass, and giv­ing an im­pa­tient stamp. ‘Shall I go?’

‘No; you needn’t go just yet, Eddy. The girls would all be ask­ing ques­tions why you went.’

‘Once for all, Rosa, will you un­cov­er that ridicu­lous lit­tle head of yours and give me a wel­come?’

The apron is pulled off the child­ish head, as its wear­er replies: ‘You’re very wel­come, Eddy. There! I’m sure that’s nice. Shake hands. No, I can’t kiss you, be­cause I’ve got an acidu­lat­ed drop in my mouth.’

‘Are you at all glad to see me, Pussy?’

‘O, yes, I’m dread­ful­ly glad.—Go and sit down.—Miss Twin­kle­ton.’

It is the cus­tom of that ex­cel­lent lady when these vis­its occur, to ap­pear every three min­utes, ei­ther in her own per­son or in that of Mrs. Tish­er, and lay an of­fer­ing on the shrine of Pro­pri­ety by af­fect­ing to look for some desider­at­ed ar­ti­cle. On the pre­sent oc­ca­sion Miss Twin­kle­ton, grace­ful­ly glid­ing in and out, says in pass­ing: ‘How do you do, Mr. Drood? Very glad in­deed to have the plea­sure. Pray ex­cuse me. Tweez­ers. Thank you!’

‘I got the gloves last evening, Eddy, and I like them very much. They are beau­ties.’

‘Well, that’s some­thing,’ the af­fi­anced replies, half grum­bling. ‘The small­est en­cour­age­ment thank­ful­ly re­ceived. And how did you pass your birth­day, Pussy?’

‘De­light­ful­ly! Ev­ery­body gave me a pre­sent. And we had a feast. And we had a ball at night.’

‘A feast and a ball, eh? These oc­ca­sions seem to go off tol­er­a­bly well with­out me, Pussy.’

‘De-light­ful­ly!’ cries Rosa, in a quite spon­ta­neous man­ner, and with­out the least pre­tence of re­serve.

‘Hah! And what was the feast?’

‘Tarts, or­anges, jel­lies, and shrimps.’

‘Any part­ners at the ball?’

‘We danced with one an­oth­er, of course, sir. But some of the girls made game to be their broth­ers. It was so droll!’

‘Did any­body make game to be—’

‘To be you? O dear yes!’ cries Rosa, laugh­ing with great en­joy­ment. ‘That was the first thing done.’

‘I hope she did it pret­ty well,’ says Edwin rather doubt­ful­ly.

‘O, it was ex­cel­lent!—I wouldn’t dance with you, you know.’

Edwin scarce­ly seems to see the force of this; begs to know if he may take the lib­er­ty to ask why?

‘Be­cause I was so tired of you,’ re­turns Rosa. But she quick­ly adds, and plead­ing­ly too, see­ing dis­plea­sure in his face: ‘Dear Eddy, you were just as tired of me, you know.’

‘Did I say so, Rosa?’

‘Say so! Do you ever say so? No, you only showed it. O, she did it so well!’ cries Rosa, in a sud­den ec­sta­sy with her coun­ter­feit be­trothed.

‘It strikes me that she must be a dev­il­ish im­pu­dent girl,’ says Edwin Drood. ‘And so, Pussy, you have passed your last birth­day in this old house.’

‘Ah, yes!’ Rosa clasps her hands, looks down with a sigh, and shakes her head.

‘You seem to be sorry, Rosa.’

‘I am sorry for the poor old place. Some­how, I feel as if it would miss me, when I am gone so far away, so young.’

‘Per­haps we had bet­ter stop short, Rosa?’

She looks up at him with a swift bright look; next mo­ment shakes her head, sighs, and looks down again.

‘That is to say, is it, Pussy, that we are both re­signed?’

She nods her head again, and after a short si­lence, quaint­ly bursts out with: ‘You know we must be mar­ried, and mar­ried from here, Eddy, or the poor girls will be so dread­ful­ly dis­ap­point­ed!’

For the mo­ment there is more of com­pas­sion, both for her and for him­self, in her af­fi­anced hus­band’s face, than there is of love. He checks the look, and asks: ‘Shall I take you out for a walk, Rosa dear?’

Rosa dear does not seem at all clear on this point, until her face, which has been com­i­cal­ly re­flec­tive, bright­ens. ‘O, yes, Eddy; let us go for a walk! And I tell you what we’ll do. You shall pre­tend that you are en­gaged to some­body else, and I’ll pre­tend that I am not en­gaged to any­body, and then we shan’t quar­rel.’

‘Do you think that will pre­vent our falling out, Rosa?’

‘I know it will. Hush! Pre­tend to look out of win­dow—Mrs. Tish­er!’

Through a for­tu­itous con­course of ac­ci­dents, the ma­tron­ly Tish­er heaves in sight, says, in rustling through the room like the leg­endary ghost of a dowa­ger in silken skirts: ‘I hope I see Mr. Drood well; though I needn’t ask, if I may judge from his com­plex­ion. I trust I dis­turb no one; but there was a pa­per-knife—O, thank you, I am sure!’ and dis­ap­pears with her prize.

‘One other thing you must do, Eddy, to oblige me,’ says Rose­bud. ‘The mo­ment we get into the street, you must put me out­side, and keep close to the house your­self—squeeze and graze your­self against it.’

‘By all means, Rosa, if you wish it. Might I ask why?’

‘O! be­cause I don’t want the girls to see you.’

‘It’s a fine day; but would you like me to carry an um­brel­la up?’

‘Don’t be fool­ish, sir. You haven’t got pol­ished leather boots on,’ pout­ing, with one shoul­der raised.

‘Per­haps that might es­cape the no­tice of the girls, even if they did see me,’ re­marks Edwin, look­ing down at his boots with a sud­den dis­taste for them.

‘Noth­ing es­capes their no­tice, sir. And then I know what would hap­pen. Some of them would begin re­flect­ing on me by say­ing (for they are free) that they never will on any ac­count en­gage them­selves to lovers with­out pol­ished leather boots. Hark! Miss Twin­kle­ton. I’ll ask for leave.’

That dis­creet lady being in­deed heard with­out, in­quir­ing of no­body in a bland­ly con­ver­sa­tion­al tone as she ad­vances: ‘Eh? In­deed! Are you quite sure you saw my moth­er-of-pearl but­ton-hold­er on the work-table in my room?’ is at once so­licit­ed for walk­ing leave, and gra­cious­ly ac­cords it. And soon the young cou­ple go out of the Nuns’ House, tak­ing all pre­cau­tions against the dis­cov­ery of the so vi­tal­ly de­fec­tive boots of Mr. Edwin Drood: pre­cau­tions, let us hope, ef­fec­tive for the peace of Mrs. Edwin Drood that is to be.

‘Which way shall we take, Rosa?’

Rosa replies: ‘I want to go to the Lumps-of-De­light shop.’

‘To the—?’

‘A Turk­ish sweet­meat, sir. My gra­cious me, don’t you un­der­stand any­thing? Call your­self an En­gi­neer, and not know that?’

‘Why, how should I know it, Rosa?’

‘Be­cause I am very fond of them. But O! I for­got what we are to pre­tend. No, you needn’t know any­thing about them; never mind.’

So he is gloomi­ly borne off to the Lumps-of-De­light shop, where Rosa makes her pur­chase, and, after of­fer­ing some to him (which he rather in­dig­nant­ly de­clines), be­gins to par­take of it with great zest: pre­vi­ous­ly tak­ing off and rolling up a pair of lit­tle pink gloves, like rose-leaves, and oc­ca­sion­al­ly putting her lit­tle pink fin­gers to her rosy lips, to cleanse them from the Dust of De­light that comes off the Lumps.

‘Now, be a good-tem­pered Eddy, and pre­tend. And so you are en­gaged?’

‘And so I am en­gaged.’

‘Is she nice?’

‘Charm­ing.’

‘Tall?’

‘Im­mense­ly tall!’ Rosa being short.

‘Must be gawky, I should think,’ is Rosa’s quiet com­men­tary.

‘I beg your par­don; not at all,’ con­tra­dic­tion ris­ing in him.

‘What is termed a fine woman; a splen­did woman.’

‘Big nose, no doubt,’ is the quiet com­men­tary again.

‘Not a lit­tle one, cer­tain­ly,’ is the quick reply, (Rosa’s being a lit­tle one.)

‘Long pale nose, with a red knob in the mid­dle. I know the sort of nose,’ says Rosa, with a sat­is­fied nod, and tran­quil­ly en­joy­ing the Lumps.

‘You don’t know the sort of nose, Rosa,’ with some warmth; ‘be­cause it’s noth­ing of the kind.’

‘Not a pale nose, Eddy?’

‘No.’ De­ter­mined not to as­sent.

‘A red nose? O! I don’t like red noses. How­ev­er; to be sure she can al­ways pow­der it.’

‘She would scorn to pow­der it,’ says Edwin, be­com­ing heat­ed.

‘Would she? What a stupid thing she must be! Is she stupid in ev­ery­thing?’

‘No; in noth­ing.’

After a pause, in which the whim­si­cal­ly wicked face has not been un­ob­ser­vant of him, Rosa says:

‘And this most sen­si­ble of crea­tures likes the idea of being car­ried off to Egypt; does she, Eddy?’

‘Yes. She takes a sen­si­ble in­ter­est in tri­umphs of en­gi­neer­ing skill: es­pe­cial­ly when they are to change the whole con­di­tion of an un­de­vel­oped coun­try.’

‘Lor!’ says Rosa, shrug­ging her shoul­ders, with a lit­tle laugh of won­der.

‘Do you ob­ject,’ Edwin in­quires, with a ma­jes­tic turn of his eyes down­ward upon the fairy fig­ure: ‘do you ob­ject, Rosa, to her feel­ing that in­ter­est?’

‘Ob­ject? my dear Eddy! But re­al­ly, doesn’t she hate boil­ers and things?’

‘I can an­swer for her not being so id­i­ot­ic as to hate Boil­ers,’ he re­turns with angry em­pha­sis; ‘though I can­not an­swer for her views about Things; re­al­ly not un­der­stand­ing what Things are meant.’

‘But don’t she hate Arabs, and Turks, and Fel­lahs, and peo­ple?’

‘Cer­tain­ly not.’ Very firm­ly.

‘At least she must hate the Pyra­mids? Come, Eddy?’

‘Why should she be such a lit­tle—tall, I mean—goose, as to hate the Pyra­mids, Rosa?’

‘Ah! you should hear Miss Twin­kle­ton,’ often nod­ding her head, and much en­joy­ing the Lumps, ‘bore about them, and then you wouldn’t ask. Tire­some old bury­ing-grounds! Isis­es, and Ibis­es, and Cheopses, and Pharaohses; who cares about them? And then there was Bel­zoni, or some­body, dragged out by the legs, half-choked with bats and dust. All the girls say: Serve him right, and hope it hurt him, and wish he had been quite choked.’

The two youth­ful fig­ures, side by side, but not now arm-in-arm, wan­der dis­con­tent­ed­ly about the old Close; and each some­times stops and slow­ly im­prints a deep­er foot­step in the fall­en leaves.

‘Well!’ says Edwin, after a lengthy si­lence. ‘Ac­cord­ing to cus­tom. We can’t get on, Rosa.’

Rosa toss­es her head, and says she don’t want to get on.

‘That’s a pret­ty sen­ti­ment, Rosa, con­sid­er­ing.’

‘Con­sid­er­ing what?’

‘If I say what, you’ll go wrong again.’

‘You’ll go wrong, you mean, Eddy. Don’t be un­gen­er­ous.’

‘Un­gen­er­ous! I like that!’

‘Then I don’t like that, and so I tell you plain­ly,’ Rosa pouts.

‘Now, Rosa, I put it to you. Who dis­par­aged my pro­fes­sion, my des­ti­na­tion—’

‘You are not going to be buried in the Pyra­mids, I hope?’ she in­ter­rupts, arch­ing her del­i­cate eye­brows. ‘You never said you were. If you are, why haven’t you men­tioned it to me? I can’t find out your plans by in­stinct.’

‘Now, Rosa, you know very well what I mean, my dear.’

‘Well then, why did you begin with your de­testable red-nosed gi­antess­es? And she would, she would, she would, she would, she would pow­der it!’ cries Rosa, in a lit­tle burst of com­i­cal con­tra­dic­to­ry spleen.

‘Some­how or other, I never can come right in these dis­cus­sions,’ says Edwin, sigh­ing and be­com­ing re­signed.

‘How is it pos­si­ble, sir, that you ever can come right when you’re al­ways wrong? And as to Bel­zoni, I sup­pose he’s dead;—I’m sure I hope he is—and how can his legs or his chokes con­cern you?’

‘It is near­ly time for your re­turn, Rosa. We have not had a very happy walk, have we?’

‘A happy walk? A de­testably un­hap­py walk, sir. If I go up-stairs the mo­ment I get in and cry till I can’t take my danc­ing les­son, you are re­spon­si­ble, mind!’

‘Let us be friends, Rosa.’

‘Ah!’ cries Rosa, shak­ing her head and burst­ing into real tears, ‘I wish we could be friends! It’s be­cause we can’t be friends, that we try one an­oth­er so. I am a young lit­tle thing, Eddy, to have an old heartache; but I re­al­ly, re­al­ly have, some­times. Don’t be angry. I know you have one your­self too often. We should both of us have done bet­ter, if What is to be had been left What might have been. I am quite a lit­tle se­ri­ous thing now, and not teas­ing you. Let each of us for­bear, this one time, on our own ac­count, and on the other’s!’

Dis­armed by this glimpse of a woman’s na­ture in the spoilt child, though for an in­stant dis­posed to re­sent it as seem­ing to in­volve the en­forced in­flic­tion of him­self upon her, Edwin Drood stands watch­ing her as she child­ish­ly cries and sobs, with both hands to the hand­ker­chief at her eyes, and then—she be­com­ing more com­posed, and in­deed be­gin­ning in her young in­con­stan­cy to laugh at her­self for hav­ing been so moved—leads her to a seat hard by, under the elm-trees.

‘One clear word of un­der­stand­ing, Pussy dear. I am not clever out of my own line—now I come to think of it, I don’t know that I am par­tic­u­lar­ly clever in it—but I want to do right. There is not—there may be—I re­al­ly don’t see my way to what I want to say, but I must say it be­fore we part—there is not any other young—’

‘O no, Eddy! It’s gen­er­ous of you to ask me; but no, no, no!’

They have come very near to the Cathe­dral win­dows, and at this mo­ment the organ and the choir sound out sub­lime­ly. As they sit lis­ten­ing to the solemn swell, the con­fi­dence of last night rises in young Edwin Drood’s mind, and he thinks how un­like this music is to that dis­cor­dance.

‘I fancy I can dis­tin­guish Jack’s voice,’ is his re­mark in a low tone in con­nec­tion with the train of thought.

‘Take me back at once, please,’ urges his Af­fi­anced, quick­ly lay­ing her light hand upon his wrist. ‘They will all be com­ing out di­rect­ly; let us get away. O, what a re­sound­ing chord! But don’t let us stop to lis­ten to it; let us get away!’

Her hurry is over as soon as they have passed out of the Close. They go arm-in-arm now, grave­ly and de­lib­er­ate­ly enough, along the old High-street, to the Nuns’ House. At the gate, the street being with­in sight empty, Edwin bends down his face to Rose­bud’s.

She re­mon­strates, laugh­ing, and is a child­ish school­girl again.

‘Eddy, no! I’m too sticky to be kissed. But give me your hand, and I’ll blow a kiss into that.’

He does so. She breathes a light breath into it and asks, re­tain­ing it and look­ing into it:—

‘Now say, what do you see?’

‘See, Rosa?’

‘Why, I thought you Egyp­tian boys could look into a hand and see all sorts of phan­toms. Can’t you see a happy Fu­ture?’

For cer­tain, nei­ther of them sees a happy Pre­sent, as the gate opens and clos­es, and one goes in, and the other goes away.


CHAP­TER IV
MR. SAPSEA

Ac­cept­ing the Jack­ass as the type of self-suf­fi­cient stu­pid­i­ty and con­ceit—a cus­tom, per­haps, like some few other cus­toms, more con­ven­tion­al than fair—then the purest jack­ass in Clois­ter­ham is Mr. Thomas Sapsea, Auc­tion­eer.

Mr. Sapsea ‘dress­es at’ the Dean; has been bowed to for the Dean, in mis­take; has even been spo­ken to in the street as My Lord, under the im­pres­sion that he was the Bish­op come down un­ex­pect­ed­ly, with­out his chap­lain. Mr. Sapsea is very proud of this, and of his voice, and of his style. He has even (in sell­ing land­ed prop­er­ty) tried the ex­per­i­ment of slight­ly in­ton­ing in his pul­pit, to make him­self more like what he takes to be the gen­uine ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal ar­ti­cle. So, in end­ing a Sale by Pub­lic Auc­tion, Mr. Sapsea fin­ish­es off with an air of be­stow­ing a bene­dic­tion on the as­sem­bled bro­kers, which leaves the real Dean—a mod­est and wor­thy gen­tle­man—far be­hind.

Mr. Sapsea has many ad­mir­ers; in­deed, the propo­si­tion is car­ried by a large local ma­jor­i­ty, even in­clud­ing non-be­liev­ers in his wis­dom, that he is a cred­it to Clois­ter­ham. He pos­sess­es the great qual­i­ties of being por­ten­tous and dull, and of hav­ing a roll in his speech, and an­oth­er roll in his gait; not to men­tion a cer­tain grave­ly flow­ing ac­tion with his hands, as if he were present­ly going to Con­firm the in­di­vid­u­al with whom he holds dis­course. Much near­er sixty years of age than fifty, with a flow­ing out­line of stom­ach, and hor­i­zon­tal creas­es in his waist­coat; re­put­ed to be rich; vot­ing at elec­tions in the strict­ly re­spectable in­ter­est; moral­ly sat­is­fied that noth­ing but he him­self has grown since he was a baby; how can dun­der-head­ed Mr. Sapsea be oth­er­wise than a cred­it to Clois­ter­ham, and so­ci­ety?

Mr. Sapsea’s premis­es are in the High-street, over against the Nuns’ House. They are of about the pe­ri­od of the Nuns’ House, ir­reg­u­lar­ly mod­ernised here and there, as steadi­ly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing gen­er­a­tions found, more and more, that they pre­ferred air and light to Fever and the Plague. Over the door­way is a wood­en ef­fi­gy, about half life-size, rep­re­sent­ing Mr. Sapsea’s fa­ther, in a curly wig and toga, in the act of sell­ing. The chasti­ty of the idea, and the nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance of the lit­tle fin­ger, ham­mer, and pul­pit, have been much ad­mired.

Mr. Sapsea sits in his dull ground-floor sit­ting-room, giv­ing first on his paved back yard; and then on his railed-off gar­den. Mr. Sapsea has a bot­tle of port wine on a table be­fore the fire—the fire is an early lux­u­ry, but pleas­ant on the cool, chilly au­tumn evening—and is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly at­tend­ed by his por­trait, his eight-day clock, and his weath­er-glass. Char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly, be­cause he would up­hold him­self against mankind, his weath­er-glass against weath­er, and his clock against time.

By Mr. Sapsea’s side on the table are a writ­ing-desk and writ­ing ma­te­ri­als. Glanc­ing at a scrap of manuscript, Mr. Sapsea reads it to him­self with a lofty air, and then, slow­ly pac­ing the room with his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waist­coat, re­peats it from mem­o­ry: so in­ter­nal­ly, though with much dig­ni­ty, that the word ‘Ethe­lin­da’ is alone au­di­ble.

There are three clean wine­glass­es in a tray on the table. His serv­ing-maid en­ter­ing, and an­nounc­ing ‘Mr. Jasper is come, sir,’ Mr. Sapsea waves ‘Admit him,’ and draws two wine­glass­es from the rank, as being claimed.

‘Glad to see you, sir. I con­grat­u­late my­self on hav­ing the hon­our of re­ceiv­ing you here for the first time.’ Mr. Sapsea does the hon­ours of his house in this wise.

‘You are very good. The hon­our is mine and the self-con­grat­u­la­tion is mine.’

‘You are pleased to say so, sir. But I do as­sure you that it is a sat­is­fac­tion to me to re­ceive you in my hum­ble home. And that is what I would not say to ev­ery­body.’ In­ef­fa­ble lofti­ness on Mr. Sapsea’s part ac­com­pa­nies these words, as leav­ing the sen­tence to be un­der­stood: ‘You will not eas­i­ly be­lieve that your so­ci­ety can be a sat­is­fac­tion to a man like my­self; nev­er­the­less, it is.’

‘I have for some time de­sired to know you, Mr. Sapsea.’

‘And I, sir, have long known you by rep­u­ta­tion as a man of taste. Let me fill your glass. I will give you, sir,’ says Mr. Sapsea, fill­ing his own:

‘When the French come over,

May we meet them at Dover!’

This was a pa­tri­ot­ic toast in Mr. Sapsea’s in­fan­cy, and he is there­fore fully con­vinced of its being ap­pro­pri­ate to any sub­se­quent era.

‘You can scarce­ly be ig­no­rant, Mr. Sapsea,’ ob­serves Jasper, watch­ing the auc­tion­eer with a smile as the lat­ter stretch­es out his legs be­fore the fire, ‘that you know the world.’

‘Well, sir,’ is the chuck­ling reply, ‘I think I know some­thing of it; some­thing of it.’

‘Your rep­u­ta­tion for that knowl­edge has al­ways in­ter­est­ed and sur­prised me, and made me wish to know you. For Clois­ter­ham is a lit­tle place. Cooped up in it my­self, I know noth­ing be­yond it, and feel it to be a very lit­tle place.’

‘If I have not gone to for­eign coun­tries, young man,’ Mr. Sapsea be­gins, and then stops:—‘You will ex­cuse me call­ing you young man, Mr. Jasper? You are much my ju­nior.’

‘By all means.’

‘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 san­dal­wood from the East In­dies; I put my fin­ger on them all. I have put my fin­ger on the North Pole be­fore now, and said “Spear of Es­quimaux make, for half a pint of pale sher­ry!”’

‘Re­al­ly? A very re­mark­able way, Mr. Sapsea, of ac­quir­ing a knowl­edge of men and things.’

‘I men­tion it, sir,’ Mr. Sapsea re­joins, with un­speak­able com­pla­cen­cy, ‘be­cause, as I say, it don’t do to boast of what you are; but show how you came to be it, and then you prove it.’

‘Most in­ter­est­ing. We were to speak of the late Mrs. Sapsea.’

‘We were, sir.’ Mr. Sapsea fills both glass­es, and takes the de­canter into safe keep­ing again. ‘Be­fore I con­sult your opin­ion as a man of taste on this lit­tle tri­fle’—hold­ing it up—‘which is but a tri­fle, and still has re­quired some thought, sir, some lit­tle fever of the brow, I ought per­haps to de­scribe the char­ac­ter of the late Mrs. Sapsea, now dead three quar­ters of a year.’

Mr. Jasper, in the act of yawn­ing be­hind his wine­glass, puts down that screen and calls up a look of in­ter­est. It is a lit­tle im­paired in its ex­pres­sive­ness by his hav­ing a shut-up gape still to dis­pose of, with wa­ter­ing eyes.

‘Half a dozen years ago, or so,’ Mr. Sapsea pro­ceeds, ‘when I had en­larged my mind up to—I will not say to what it now is, for that might seem to aim at too much, but up to the pitch of want­ing an­oth­er mind to be ab­sorbed in it—I cast my eye about me for a nup­tial part­ner. Be­cause, as I say, it is not good for man to be alone.’

Mr. Jasper ap­pears to com­mit this orig­i­nal idea to mem­o­ry.

‘Miss Bro­bity at that time kept, I will not call it the rival es­tab­lish­ment to the es­tab­lish­ment at the Nuns’ House op­po­site, but I will call it the other par­al­lel es­tab­lish­ment down town. The world did have it that she showed a pas­sion for at­tend­ing my sales, when they took place on half hol­i­days, or in va­ca­tion time. The world did put it about, that she ad­mired my style. The world did no­tice that as time flowed by, my style be­came trace­able in the dic­ta­tion-ex­er­cis­es of Miss Bro­bity’s pupils. Young man, a whis­per even sprang up in ob­scure ma­lig­ni­ty, that one ig­no­rant and be­sot­ted Churl (a par­ent) so com­mit­ted him­self as to ob­ject to it by name. But I do not be­lieve this. For is it like­ly that any human crea­ture in his right sens­es would so lay him­self open to be point­ed at, by what I call the fin­ger of scorn?’

Mr. Jasper shakes his head. Not in the least like­ly. Mr. Sapsea, in a grandil­o­quent state of ab­sence of mind, seems to re­fill his vis­i­tor’s glass, which is full al­ready; and does re­al­ly re­fill his own, which is empty.

‘Miss Bro­bity’s Being, young man, was deeply im­bued with homage to Mind. She revered Mind, when launched, or, as I say, pre­cip­i­tat­ed, on an ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the world. When I made my pro­pos­al, she did me the hon­our to be so over­shad­owed with a species of Awe, as to be able to ar­tic­u­late only the two words, “O Thou!” mean­ing my­self. Her limpid blue eyes were fixed upon me, her se­mi-trans­par­ent hands were clasped to­geth­er, pal­lor over­spread her aquiline fea­tures, and, though en­cour­aged to pro­ceed, she never did pro­ceed a word fur­ther. I dis­posed of the par­al­lel es­tab­lish­ment by pri­vate con­tract, and we be­came as near­ly one as could be ex­pect­ed under the cir­cum­stances. But she never could, and she never did, find a phrase sat­is­fac­to­ry to her per­haps-too-favourable es­ti­mate of my in­tel­lect. To the very last (fee­ble ac­tion of liver), she ad­dressed me in the same un­fin­ished terms.’

Mr. Jasper has closed his eyes as the auc­tion­eer has deep­ened his voice. He now abrupt­ly opens them, and says, in uni­son with the deep­ened voice ‘Ah!’—rather as if stop­ping him­self on the ex­treme verge of adding—‘men!’

‘I have been since,’ says Mr. Sapsea, with his legs stretched out, and solemn­ly en­joy­ing him­self with the wine and the fire, ‘what you be­hold me; I have been since a soli­tary mourn­er; I have been since, as I say, wast­ing my evening con­ver­sa­tion on the desert air. I will not say that I have re­proached my­self; but there have been times when I have asked my­self the ques­tion: What if her hus­band had been near­er on a level with her? If she had not had to look up quite so high, what might the stim­u­lat­ing ac­tion have been upon the liver?’

Mr. Jasper says, with an ap­pear­ance of hav­ing fall­en into dread­ful­ly low spir­its, that he ‘sup­pos­es it was to be.’

‘We can only sup­pose so, sir,’ Mr. Sapsea co­in­cides. ‘As I say, Man pro­pos­es, Heav­en dis­pos­es. It may or may not be putting the same thought in an­oth­er form; but that is the way I put it.’

Mr. Jasper mur­murs as­sent.

‘And now, Mr. Jasper,’ re­sumes the auc­tion­eer, pro­duc­ing his scrap of manuscript, ‘Mrs. Sapsea’s mon­u­ment hav­ing had full time to set­tle and dry, let me take your opin­ion, as a man of taste, on the in­scrip­tion I have (as I be­fore re­marked, not with­out some lit­tle fever of the brow) drawn out for it. Take it in your own hand. The set­ting out of the lines re­quires to be fol­lowed with the eye, as well as the con­tents with the mind.’

Mr. Jasper com­ply­ing, sees and reads as fol­lows:

ETHE­LIN­DA,
Rev­er­en­tial Wife of
MR. THOMAS SAPSEA,
AUC­TION­EER, VAL­UER, ES­TATE AGENT, &c.,
of this city.
Whose Knowl­edge of the World,
Though some­what ex­ten­sive,
Never brought him ac­quaint­ed with
A SPIR­IT
More ca­pa­ble of
look­ing up to him.
STRANGER, PAUSE
And ask thy­self the Ques­tion,
CANST THOU DO LIKE­WISE?
If Not,
WITH A BLUSH RE­TIRE.

Mr. Sapsea hav­ing risen and sta­tioned him­self with his back to the fire, for the pur­pose of ob­serv­ing the ef­fect of these lines on the coun­te­nance of a man of taste, con­se­quent­ly has his face to­wards the door, when his serv­ing-maid, again ap­pear­ing, an­nounces, ‘Dur­dles is come, sir!’ He prompt­ly draws forth and fills the third wine­glass, as being now claimed, and replies, ‘Show Dur­dles in.’

‘Ad­mirable!’ quoth Mr. Jasper, hand­ing back the paper.

‘You ap­prove, sir?’

‘Im­pos­si­ble not to ap­prove. Strik­ing, char­ac­ter­is­tic, and com­plete.’

The auc­tion­eer in­clines his head, as one ac­cept­ing his due and giv­ing a re­ceipt; and in­vites the en­ter­ing Dur­dles to take off that glass of wine (hand­ing the same), for it will warm him.

Dur­dles is a stone­ma­son; chiefly in the grave­stone, tomb, and mon­u­ment way, and whol­ly of their colour from head to foot. No man is bet­ter known in Clois­ter­ham. He is the char­tered lib­er­tine of the place. Fame trum­pets him a won­der­ful work­man—which, for aught that any­body knows, he may be (as he never works); and a won­der­ful sot—which ev­ery­body knows he is. With the Cathe­dral crypt he is bet­ter ac­quaint­ed than any liv­ing au­thor­i­ty; it may even be than any dead one. It is said that the in­ti­ma­cy of this ac­quain­tance began in his ha­bit­u­al­ly re­sort­ing to that se­cret place, to lock-out the Clois­ter­ham boy-pop­u­lace, and sleep off fumes of liquor: he hav­ing ready ac­cess to the Cathe­dral, as con­trac­tor for rough re­pairs. Be this as it may, he does know much about it, and, in the de­mo­li­tion of im­ped­i­men­tal frag­ments of wall, but­tress, and pave­ment, has seen strange sights. He often speaks of him­self in the third per­son; per­haps, being a lit­tle misty as to his own iden­ti­ty, when he nar­rates; per­haps im­par­tial­ly adopt­ing the Clois­ter­ham nomen­cla­ture in ref­er­ence to a char­ac­ter of ac­knowl­edged dis­tinc­tion. Thus he will say, touch­ing his strange sights: ‘Dur­dles come upon the old chap,’ in ref­er­ence to a buried mag­nate of an­cient time and high de­gree, ‘by strik­ing right into the cof­fin with his pick. The old chap gave Dur­dles a look with his open eyes, as much as to say, “Is your name Dur­dles? Why, my man, I’ve been wait­ing for you a devil of a time!” And then he turned to pow­der.’ With a two-foot rule al­ways in his pock­et, and a mason’s ham­mer all but al­ways in his hand, Dur­dles goes con­tin­u­al­ly sound­ing and tap­ping all about and about the Cathe­dral; and when­ev­er he says to Tope: ‘Tope, here’s an­oth­er old ’un in here!’ Tope an­nounces it to the Dean as an es­tab­lished dis­cov­ery.

In a suit of coarse flan­nel with horn but­tons, a yel­low neck­er­chief with drag­gled ends, an old hat more rus­set-coloured than black, and laced boots of the hue of his stony call­ing, Dur­dles leads a hazy, gipsy sort of life, car­ry­ing his din­ner about with him in a small bun­dle, and sit­ting on all man­ner of tomb­stones to dine. This din­ner of Dur­dles’s has be­come quite a Clois­ter­ham in­sti­tu­tion: not only be­cause of his never ap­pear­ing in pub­lic with­out it, but be­cause of its hav­ing been, on cer­tain renowned oc­ca­sions, taken into cus­tody along with Dur­dles (as drunk and in­ca­pable), and ex­hib­it­ed be­fore the Bench of jus­tices at the town­hall. These oc­ca­sions, how­ev­er, have been few and far apart: Dur­dles being as sel­dom drunk as sober. For the rest, he is an old bach­e­lor, and he lives in a lit­tle an­ti­quat­ed hole of a house that was never fin­ished: sup­posed to be built, so far, of stones stolen from the city wall. To this abode there is an ap­proach, an­kle-deep in stone chips, re­sem­bling a pet­ri­fied grove of tomb­stones, urns, draperies, and bro­ken columns, in all stages of sculp­ture. Here­in two jour­ney­men in­ces­sant­ly chip, while other two jour­ney­men, who face each other, in­ces­sant­ly saw stone; dip­ping as reg­u­lar­ly in and out of their shel­ter­ing sen­try-box­es, as if they were me­chan­i­cal fig­ures em­blem­at­i­cal of Time and Death.

To Dur­dles, when he had con­sumed his glass of port, Mr. Sapsea in­trusts that pre­cious ef­fort of his Muse. Dur­dles un­feel­ing­ly takes out his two-foot rule, and mea­sures the lines calm­ly, al­loy­ing them with stone-grit.

‘This is for the mon­u­ment, is it, Mr. Sapsea?’

‘The In­scrip­tion. Yes.’ Mr. Sapsea waits for its ef­fect on a com­mon mind.

‘It’ll come in to a eighth of a inch,’ says Dur­dles. ‘Your ser­vant, Mr. Jasper. Hope I see you well.’

‘How are you Dur­dles?’

‘I’ve got a touch of the Tombat­ism on me, Mr. Jasper, but that I must ex­pect.’

‘You mean the Rheuma­tism,’ says Sapsea, in a sharp tone. (He is net­tled by hav­ing his com­po­si­tion so me­chan­i­cal­ly re­ceived.)

‘No, I don’t. I mean, Mr. Sapsea, the Tombat­ism. It’s an­oth­er sort from Rheuma­tism. Mr. Jasper knows what Dur­dles means. You get among them Tombs afore it’s well light on a win­ter morn­ing, and keep on, as the Cat­e­chism says, a-walk­ing in the same all the days of your life, and you’ll know what Dur­dles means.’

‘It is a bit­ter cold place,’ Mr. Jasper as­sents, with an an­tipa­thet­ic shiv­er.

‘And if it’s bit­ter cold for you, up in the chan­cel, with a lot of live breath smok­ing out about you, what the bit­ter­ness is to Dur­dles, down in the crypt among the earthy damps there, and the dead breath of the old ’uns,’ re­turns that in­di­vid­u­al, ‘Dur­dles leaves you to judge.—Is this to be put in hand at once, Mr. Sapsea?’

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

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

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

‘Dur­dles knows where it’s to be put, Mr. Sapsea; no man bet­ter. Ask ’ere a man in Clois­ter­ham whether Dur­dles knows his work.’

Mr. Sapsea rises, takes a key from a draw­er, un­locks an iron safe let into the wall, and takes from it an­oth­er key.

‘When Dur­dles puts a touch or a fin­ish upon his work, no mat­ter where, in­side or out­side, Dur­dles likes to look at his work all round, and see that his work is a-do­ing him cred­it,’ Dur­dles ex­plains, dogged­ly.

The key prof­fered him by the be­reaved wid­ow­er being a large one, he slips his two-foot rule into a side-pock­et of his flan­nel trousers made for it, and de­lib­er­ate­ly opens his flan­nel coat, and opens the mouth of a large breast-pock­et with­in it be­fore tak­ing the key to place it in that repos­i­to­ry.

‘Why, Dur­dles!’ ex­claims Jasper, look­ing on amused, ‘you are un­der­mined with pock­ets!’

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

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

‘You’ll find ’em much of a much­ness, I ex­pect,’ says Dur­dles. ‘They all be­long to mon­u­ments. They all open Dur­dles’s work. Dur­dles keeps the keys of his work most­ly. Not that they’re much used.’

‘By the bye,’ it comes into Jasper’s mind to say, as he idly ex­am­ines the keys, ‘I have been going to ask you, many a day, and have al­ways for­got­ten. You know they some­times call you Stony Dur­dles, don’t you?’

‘Clois­ter­ham knows me as Dur­dles, Mr. Jasper.’

‘I am aware of that, of course. But the boys some­times—’

‘O! if you mind them young imps of boys—’ Dur­dles gruffly in­ter­rupts.

‘I don’t mind them any more than you do. But there was a dis­cus­sion the other day among the Choir, whether Stony stood for Tony;’ clink­ing one key against an­oth­er.

(‘Take care of the wards, Mr. Jasper.’)

‘Or whether Stony stood for Stephen;’ clink­ing with a change of keys.

(‘You can’t make a pitch pipe of ’em, Mr. Jasper.’)

‘Or whether the name comes from your trade. How stands the fact?’

Mr. Jasper weighs the three keys in his hand, lifts his head from his idly stoop­ing at­ti­tude over the fire, and de­liv­ers the keys to Dur­dles with an in­gen­u­ous and friend­ly face.

But the stony one is a gruff one like­wise, and that hazy state of his is al­ways an un­cer­tain state, high­ly con­scious of its dig­ni­ty, and prone to take of­fence. He drops his two keys back into his pock­et one by one, and but­tons them up; he takes his din­ner-bun­dle from the chair-back on which he hung it when he came in; he dis­tributes the weight he car­ries, by tying the third key up in it, as though he were an Os­trich, and liked to dine off cold iron; and he gets out of the room, deign­ing no word of an­swer.

Mr. Sapsea then pro­pos­es a hit at backgam­mon, which, sea­soned with his own im­prov­ing con­ver­sa­tion, and ter­mi­nat­ing in a sup­per of cold roast beef and salad, be­guiles the gold­en evening until pret­ty late. Mr. Sapsea’s wis­dom being, in its de­liv­ery to mor­tals, rather of the dif­fuse than the epi­gram­mat­ic order, is by no means ex­pend­ed even then; but his vis­i­tor in­ti­mates that he will come back for more of the pre­cious com­mod­i­ty on fu­ture oc­ca­sions, and Mr. Sapsea lets him off for the pre­sent, to pon­der on the in­stal­ment he car­ries away.


CHAP­TER V
MR. DUR­DLES AND FRIEND

John Jasper, on his way home through the Close, is brought to a stand-still by the spec­ta­cle of Stony Dur­dles, din­ner-bun­dle and all, lean­ing his back against the iron rail­ing of the buri­al-ground en­clos­ing it from the old clois­ter-arch­es; and a hideous small boy in rags fling­ing stones at him as a well-de­fined mark in the moon­light. Some­times the stones hit him, and some­times they miss him, but Dur­dles seems in­dif­fer­ent to ei­ther for­tune. The hideous small boy, on the con­trary, when­ev­er he hits Dur­dles, blows a whis­tle of tri­umph through a jagged gap, con­ve­nient for the pur­pose, in the front of his mouth, where half his teeth are want­ing; and when­ev­er he miss­es him, yelps out ‘Mulled agin!’ and tries to atone for the fail­ure by tak­ing a more cor­rect and vi­cious aim.

‘What are you doing to the man?’ de­mands Jasper, step­ping out into the moon­light from the shade.

‘Mak­ing a cock-shy of him,’ replies the hideous small boy.

‘Give me those stones in your hand.’

‘Yes, I’ll give ’em you down your throat, if you come a-ketch­ing hold of me,’ says the small boy, shak­ing him­self loose, and back­ing. ‘I’ll smash your eye, if you don’t look out!’

‘Ba­by-Dev­il that you are, what has the man done to you?’

‘He won’t go home.’

‘What is that to you?’

‘He gives me a ’apen­ny to pelt him home if I ketch­es him out too late,’ says the boy. And then chants, like a lit­tle sav­age, half stum­bling and half danc­ing among the rags and laces of his di­lap­i­dat­ed boots:—

‘Widdy widdy wen!
I—ket—ches—Im—out—ar—ter—ten,
Widdy widdy wy!
Then—E—don’t—go—then—I—shy—
Widdy Widdy Wake-cock warn­ing!’

—with a com­pre­hen­sive sweep on the last word, and one more de­liv­ery at Dur­dles.

This would seem to be a po­et­i­cal note of prepa­ra­tion, agreed upon, as a cau­tion to Dur­dles to stand clear if he can, or to be­take him­self home­ward.

John Jasper in­vites the boy with a beck of his head to fol­low him (feel­ing it hope­less to drag him, or coax him), and cross­es to the iron rail­ing where the Stony (and stoned) One is pro­found­ly med­i­tat­ing.

‘Do you know this thing, this child?’ asks Jasper, at a loss for a word that will de­fine this thing.

‘Deputy,’ says Dur­dles, with a nod.

‘Is that its—his—name?’

‘Deputy,’ as­sents Dur­dles.

‘I’m man-ser­vant up at the Trav­ellers’ Twopen­ny in Gas Works Gard­ing,’ this thing ex­plains. ‘All us man-ser­vants at Trav­ellers’ Lodg­ings is named Deputy. When we’re chock full and the Trav­ellers is all a-bed I come out for my ’elth.’ Then with­draw­ing into the road, and tak­ing aim, he re­sumes:—

‘Widdy widdy wen!
I—ket—ches—Im—out—ar—ter—’

‘Hold your hand,’ cries Jasper, ‘and don’t throw while I stand so near him, or I’ll kill you! Come, Dur­dles; let me walk home with you to-night. Shall I carry your bun­dle?’

‘Not on any ac­count,’ replies Dur­dles, ad­just­ing it. ‘Dur­dles was mak­ing his re­flec­tions here when you come up, sir, sur­round­ed by his works, like a poplar Au­thor.—Your own broth­er-in-law;’ in­tro­duc­ing a sar­coph­a­gus with­in the rail­ing, white and cold in the moon­light. ‘Mrs. Sapsea;’ in­tro­duc­ing the mon­u­ment of that de­vot­ed wife. ‘Late In­cum­bent;’ in­tro­duc­ing the Rev­erend Gen­tle­man’s bro­ken col­umn. ‘De­part­ed As­sessed Taxes;’ in­tro­duc­ing a vase and towel, stand­ing on what might rep­re­sent the cake of soap. ‘For­mer pas­trycook and Muf­fin-mak­er, much re­spect­ed;’ in­tro­duc­ing grave­stone. ‘All safe and sound here, sir, and all Dur­dles’s work. Of the com­mon folk, that is mere­ly bun­dled up in turf and bram­bles, the less said the bet­ter. A poor lot, soon for­got.’

‘This crea­ture, Deputy, is be­hind us,’ says Jasper, look­ing back. ‘Is he to fol­low us?’

The re­la­tions be­tween Dur­dles and Deputy are of a capri­cious kind; for, on Dur­dles’s turn­ing him­self about with the slow grav­i­ty of beery sud­den­ness, Deputy makes a pret­ty wide cir­cuit into the road and stands on the de­fen­sive.

‘You never cried Widdy Warn­ing be­fore you begun to-night,’ says Dur­dles, un­ex­pect­ed­ly re­mind­ed of, or imag­in­ing, an in­jury.

‘Yer lie, I did,’ says Deputy, in his only form of po­lite con­tra­dic­tion.

‘Own broth­er, sir,’ ob­serves Dur­dles, turn­ing him­self about again, and as un­ex­pect­ed­ly for­get­ting his of­fence as he had re­called or con­ceived it; ‘own broth­er to Peter the Wild Boy! But I gave him an ob­ject in life.’

‘At which he takes aim?’ Mr. Jasper sug­gests.

‘That’s it, sir,’ re­turns Dur­dles, quite sat­is­fied; ‘at which he takes aim. I took him in hand and gave him an ob­ject. What was he be­fore? A de­stroy­er. What work did he do? Noth­ing but de­struc­tion. What did he earn by it? Short terms in Clois­ter­ham jail. Not a per­son, not a piece of prop­er­ty, not a winder, not a horse, nor a dog, nor a cat, nor a bird, nor a fowl, nor a pig, but what he stoned, for want of an en­light­ened ob­ject. I put that en­light­ened ob­ject be­fore him, and now he can turn his hon­est half­pen­ny by the three penn’orth a week.’

‘I won­der he has no com­peti­tors.’

‘He has plen­ty, Mr. Jasper, but he stones ’em all away. Now, I don’t know what this scheme of mine comes to,’ pur­sues Dur­dles, con­sid­er­ing about it with the same sod­den grav­i­ty; ‘I don’t know what you may pre­cise­ly call it. It ain’t a sort of a—scheme of a—Na­tion­al Ed­u­ca­tion?’

‘I should say not,’ replies Jasper.

‘I should say not,’ as­sents Dur­dles; ‘then we won’t try to give it a name.’

‘He still keeps be­hind us,’ re­peats Jasper, look­ing over his shoul­der; ‘is he to fol­low us?’

‘We can’t help going round by the Trav­ellers’ Twopen­ny, if we go the short way, which is the back way,’ Dur­dles an­swers, ‘and we’ll drop him there.’

So they go on; Deputy, as a rear rank one, tak­ing open order, and in­vad­ing the si­lence of the hour and place by ston­ing every wall, post, pil­lar, and other inan­i­mate ob­ject, by the de­sert­ed way.

‘Is there any­thing new down in the crypt, Dur­dles?’ asks John Jasper.

‘Any­thing old, I think you mean,’ growls Dur­dles. ‘It ain’t a spot for nov­el­ty.’

‘Any new dis­cov­ery on your part, I meant.’

‘There’s a old ’un under the sev­enth pil­lar on the left as you go down the bro­ken steps of the lit­tle un­der­ground chapel as for­mer­ly was; I make him out (so fur as I’ve made him out yet) to be one of them old ’uns with a crook. To judge from the size of the pas­sages in the walls, and of the steps and doors, by which they come and went, them crooks must have been a good deal in the way of the old ’uns! Two on ’em meet­ing promis­cu­ous must have hitched one an­oth­er by the mitre pret­ty often, I should say.’

With­out any en­deav­our to cor­rect the lit­er­al­i­ty of this opin­ion, Jasper sur­veys his com­pan­ion—cov­ered from head to foot with old mor­tar, lime, and stone grit—as though he, Jasper, were get­ting im­bued with a ro­man­tic in­ter­est in his weird life.

‘Yours is a cu­ri­ous ex­is­tence.’

With­out fur­nish­ing the least clue to the ques­tion, whether he re­ceives this as a com­pli­ment or as quite the re­verse, Dur­dles gruffly an­swers: ‘Yours is an­oth­er.’

‘Well! inas­much as my lot is cast in the same old earthy, chilly, nev­er-chang­ing place, Yes. But there is much more mys­tery and in­ter­est in your con­nec­tion with the Cathe­dral than in mine. In­deed, I am be­gin­ning to have some idea of ask­ing you to take me on as a sort of stu­dent, or free ’pren­tice, under you, and to let me go about with you some­times, and see some of these odd nooks in which you pass your days.’

The Stony One replies, in a gen­er­al way, ‘All right. Ev­ery­body knows where to find Dur­dles, when he’s want­ed.’ Which, if not strict­ly true, is ap­prox­i­mate­ly so, if taken to ex­press that Dur­dles may al­ways be found in a state of vagabondage some­where.

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

Dur­dles has stopped and backed a lit­tle (Deputy, at­ten­tive to all his move­ments, im­me­di­ate­ly skir­mish­ing into the road), and was look­ing about for some ledge or cor­ner to place his bun­dle on, when thus re­lieved of it.

‘Just you give me my ham­mer out of that,’ says Dur­dles, ‘and I’ll show you.’

Clink, clink. And his ham­mer is hand­ed him.

‘Now, lookee here. You pitch your note, don’t you, Mr. Jasper?’

‘Yes.’

‘So I sound for mine. I take my ham­mer, and I tap.’ (Here he strikes the pave­ment, and the at­ten­tive Deputy skir­mish­es at a rather wider range, as sup­pos­ing that his head may be in req­ui­si­tion.) ‘I tap, tap, tap. Solid! I go on tap­ping. Solid still! Tap again. Hol­loa! Hol­low! Tap again, per­se­ver­ing. Solid in hol­low! Tap, tap, tap, to try it bet­ter. Solid in hol­low; and in­side solid, hol­low again! There you are! Old ’un crum­bled away in stone cof­fin, in vault!’

‘As­ton­ish­ing!’

‘I have even done this,’ says Dur­dles, draw­ing out his two-foot rule (Deputy mean­while skir­mish­ing near­er, as sus­pect­ing that Trea­sure may be about to be dis­cov­ered, which may some­how lead to his own en­rich­ment, and the de­li­cious treat of the dis­cov­er­ers being hanged by the neck, on his ev­i­dence, until they are dead). ‘Say that ham­mer of mine’s a wall—my work. Two; four; and two is six,’ mea­sur­ing on the pave­ment. ‘Six foot in­side that wall is Mrs. Sapsea.’

‘Not re­al­ly Mrs. Sapsea?’

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

Jasper opines that such ac­cu­ra­cy ‘is a gift.’

‘I wouldn’t have it at a gift,’ re­turns Dur­dles, by no means re­ceiv­ing the ob­ser­va­tion in good part. ‘I worked it out for my­self. Dur­dles comes by his knowl­edge through grub­bing deep for it, and hav­ing it up by the roots when it don’t want to come.—Hol­loa you Deputy!’

‘Widdy!’ is Deputy’s shrill re­sponse, stand­ing off again.

‘Catch that ha’penny. And don’t let me see any more of you to-night, after we come to the Trav­ellers’ Twopen­ny.’

‘Warn­ing!’ re­turns Deputy, hav­ing caught the half­pen­ny, and ap­pear­ing by this mys­tic word to ex­press his as­sent to the ar­range­ment.

They have but to cross what was once the vine­yard, be­long­ing to what was once the Monastery, to come into the nar­row back lane where­in stands the crazy wood­en house of two low sto­ries cur­rent­ly known as the Trav­ellers’ Twopen­ny:—a house all warped and dis­tort­ed, like the morals of the trav­ellers, with scant re­mains of a lat­tice-work porch over the door, and also of a rus­tic fence be­fore its stamped-out gar­den; by rea­son of the trav­ellers being so bound to the premis­es by a ten­der sen­ti­ment (or so fond of hav­ing a fire by the road­side in the course of the day), that they can never be per­suad­ed or threat­ened into de­par­ture, with­out vi­o­lent­ly pos­sess­ing them­selves of some wood­en for­get-me-not, and bear­ing it off.

The sem­blance of an inn is at­tempt­ed to be given to this wretched place by frag­ments of con­ven­tion­al red cur­tain­ing in the win­dows, which rags are made mud­di­ly trans­par­ent in the night-sea­son by fee­ble lights of rush or cot­ton dip burn­ing dully in the close air of the in­side. As Dur­dles and Jasper come near, they are ad­dressed by an in­scribed paper lantern over the door, set­ting forth the pur­port of the house. They are also ad­dressed by some half-dozen other hideous small boys—whether twopen­ny lodgers or fol­low­ers or hang­ers-on of such, who knows!—who, as if at­tract­ed by some car­rion-scent of Deputy in the air, start into the moon­light, as vul­tures might gath­er in the desert, and in­stant­ly fall to ston­ing him and one an­oth­er.

‘Stop, you young brutes,’ cries Jasper an­gri­ly, ‘and let us go by!’

This re­mon­strance being re­ceived with yells and fly­ing stones, ac­cord­ing to a cus­tom of late years com­fort­ably es­tab­lished among the po­lice reg­u­la­tions of our En­glish com­mu­ni­ties, where Chris­tians are stoned on all sides, as if the days of Saint Stephen were re­vived, Dur­dles re­marks of the young sav­ages, with some point, that ‘they haven’t got an ob­ject,’ and leads the way down the lane.

At the cor­ner of the lane, Jasper, hotly en­raged, checks his com­pan­ion and looks back. All is silent. Next mo­ment, a stone com­ing rat­tling at his hat, and a dis­tant yell of ‘Wake-Cock! Warn­ing!’ fol­lowed by a crow, as from some in­fer­nal­ly-hatched Chan­ti­cleer, ap­pris­ing him under whose vic­to­ri­ous fire he stands, he turns the cor­ner into safe­ty, and takes Dur­dles home: Dur­dles stum­bling among the lit­ter of his stony yard as if he were going to turn head fore­most into one of the un­fin­ished tombs.

John Jasper re­turns by an­oth­er way to his gate­house, and en­ter­ing soft­ly with his key, finds his fire still burn­ing. He takes from a locked press a pe­cu­liar-look­ing pipe, which he fills—but not with to­bac­co—and, hav­ing ad­just­ed the con­tents of the bowl, very care­ful­ly, with a lit­tle in­stru­ment, as­cends an inner stair­case of only a few steps, lead­ing to two rooms. One of these is his own sleep­ing cham­ber: the other is his nephew’s. There is a light in each.

His nephew lies asleep, calm and un­trou­bled. John Jasper stands look­ing down upon him, his un­light­ed pipe in his hand, for some time, with a fixed and deep at­ten­tion. Then, hush­ing his foot­steps, he pass­es to his own room, lights his pipe, and de­liv­ers him­self to the Spec­tres it in­vokes at mid­night.


CHAP­TER VI
PHI­LAN­THROPY IN MINOR CANON COR­NER

The Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus Crisparkle (Sep­ti­mus, be­cause six lit­tle broth­er Crisparkles be­fore him went out, one by one, as they were born, like six weak lit­tle rush­lights, as they were light­ed), hav­ing bro­ken the thin morn­ing ice near Clois­ter­ham Weir with his ami­able head, much to the in­vig­o­ra­tion of his frame, was now as­sist­ing his cir­cu­la­tion by box­ing at a look­ing-glass with great sci­ence and prowess. A fresh and healthy por­trait the look­ing-glass pre­sent­ed of the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus, feint­ing and dodg­ing with the ut­most art­ful­ness, and hit­ting out from the shoul­der with the ut­most straight­ness, while his ra­di­ant fea­tures teemed with in­no­cence, and soft-heart­ed benev­o­lence beamed from his box­ing-gloves.

It was scarce­ly break­fast-time yet, for Mrs. Crisparkle—moth­er, not wife of the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus—was only just down, and wait­ing for the urn. In­deed, the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus left off at this very mo­ment to take the pret­ty old lady’s en­ter­ing face be­tween his box­ing-gloves and kiss it. Hav­ing done so with ten­der­ness, the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus turned to again, coun­ter­ing with his left, and putting in his right, in a tremen­dous man­ner.

‘I say, every morn­ing of my life, that you’ll do it at last, Sept,’ re­marked the old lady, look­ing on; ‘and so you will.’

‘Do what, Ma dear?’

‘Break the pier-glass, or burst a blood-ves­sel.’

‘Nei­ther, please God, Ma dear. Here’s wind, Ma. Look at this!’ In a con­clud­ing round of great sever­i­ty, the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus ad­min­is­tered and es­caped all sorts of pun­ish­ment, and wound up by get­ting the old lady’s cap into Chancery—such is the tech­ni­cal term used in sci­en­tif­ic cir­cles by the learned in the Noble Art—with a light­ness of touch that hard­ly stirred the light­est laven­der or cher­ry riband on it. Mag­nan­i­mous­ly re­leas­ing the de­feat­ed, just in time to get his gloves into a draw­er and feign to be look­ing out of win­dow in a con­tem­pla­tive state of mind when a ser­vant en­tered, the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus then gave place to the urn and other prepa­ra­tions for break­fast. These com­plet­ed, and the two alone again, it was pleas­ant to see (or would have been, if there had been any one to see it, which there never was), the old lady stand­ing to say the Lord’s Prayer aloud, and her son, Minor Canon nev­er­the­less, stand­ing with bent head to hear it, he being with­in five years of forty: much as he had stood to hear the same words from the same lips when he was with­in five months of four.

What is pret­ti­er than an old lady—ex­cept a young lady—when her eyes are bright, when her fig­ure is trim and com­pact, when her face is cheer­ful and calm, when her dress is as the dress of a china shep­herdess: so dain­ty in its colours, so in­di­vid­u­al­ly as­sort­ed to her­self, so neat­ly mould­ed on her? Noth­ing is pret­ti­er, thought the good Minor Canon fre­quent­ly, when tak­ing his seat at table op­po­site his long-wid­owed moth­er. Her thought at such times may be con­densed into the two words that of­ten­est did duty to­geth­er in all her con­ver­sa­tions: ‘My Sept!’

They were a good pair to sit break­fast­ing to­geth­er in Minor Canon Cor­ner, Clois­ter­ham. For Minor Canon Cor­ner was a quiet place in the shad­ow of the Cathe­dral, which the caw­ing of the rooks, the echo­ing foot­steps of rare passers, the sound of the Cathe­dral bell, or the roll of the Cathe­dral organ, seemed to ren­der more quiet than ab­so­lute si­lence. Swag­ger­ing fight­ing men had had their cen­turies of ramp­ing and rav­ing about Minor Canon Cor­ner, and beat­en serfs had had their cen­turies of drudg­ing and dying there, and pow­er­ful monks had had their cen­turies of being some­times use­ful and some­times harm­ful there, and be­hold they were all gone out of Minor Canon Cor­ner, and so much the bet­ter. Per­haps one of the high­est uses of their ever hav­ing been there, was, that there might be left be­hind, that blessed air of tran­quil­li­ty which per­vad­ed Minor Canon Cor­ner, and that serene­ly ro­man­tic state of the mind—pro­duc­tive for the most part of pity and for­bear­ance—which is en­gen­dered by a sor­row­ful story that is all told, or a pa­thet­ic play that is played out.

Red-brick walls har­mo­nious­ly toned down in colour by time, strong-root­ed ivy, lat­ticed win­dows, pan­elled rooms, big oaken beams in lit­tle places, and stone-walled gar­dens where an­nu­al fruit yet ripened upon monk­ish trees, were the prin­ci­pal sur­round­ings of pret­ty old Mrs. Crisparkle and the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus as they sat at break­fast.

‘And what, Ma dear,’ in­quired the Minor Canon, giv­ing proof of a whole­some and vig­or­ous ap­petite, ‘does the let­ter say?’

The pret­ty old lady, after read­ing it, had just laid it down upon the break­fast-cloth. She hand­ed it over to her son.

Now, the old lady was ex­ceed­ing­ly proud of her bright eyes being so clear that she could read writ­ing with­out spec­ta­cles. Her son was also so proud of the cir­cum­stance, and so du­ti­ful­ly bent on her de­riv­ing the ut­most pos­si­ble grat­i­fi­ca­tion from it, that he had in­vent­ed the pre­tence that he him­self could not read writ­ing with­out spec­ta­cles. There­fore he now as­sumed a pair, of grave and prodi­gious pro­por­tions, which not only se­ri­ous­ly in­con­ve­nienced his nose and his break­fast, but se­ri­ous­ly im­ped­ed his pe­rusal of the let­ter. For, he had the eyes of a mi­cro­scope and a tele­scope com­bined, when they were unas­sist­ed.

‘It’s from Mr. Hon­eythun­der, of course,’ said the old lady, fold­ing her arms.

‘Of course,’ as­sent­ed her son. He then lame­ly read on:

‘“Haven of Phi­lan­thropy,

Chief Of­fices, Lon­don, Wednes­day.

‘“Dear Madam,

‘“I write in the—;” In the what’s this? What does he write in?’

‘In the chair,’ said the old lady.

The Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus took off his spec­ta­cles, that he might see her face, as he ex­claimed:

‘Why, what should he write in?’

‘Bless me, bless me, Sept,’ re­turned the old lady, ‘you don’t see the con­text! Give it back to me, my dear.’

Glad to get his spec­ta­cles off (for they al­ways made his eyes water), her son obeyed: mur­mur­ing that his sight for read­ing manuscript got worse and worse daily.

‘“I write,”’ his moth­er went on, read­ing very per­spic­u­ous­ly and pre­cise­ly, ‘“from the chair, to which I shall prob­a­bly be con­fined for some hours.”’

Sep­ti­mus looked at the row of chairs against the wall, with a half-protest­ing and half-ap­peal­ing coun­te­nance.

‘“We have,”’ the old lady read on with a lit­tle extra em­pha­sis, ‘“a meet­ing of our Con­vened Chief Com­pos­ite Com­mit­tee of Cen­tral and Dis­trict Phi­lan­thropists, at our Head Haven as above; and it is their unan­i­mous plea­sure that I take the chair.”’

Sep­ti­mus breathed more freely, and mut­tered: ‘O! if he comes to that, let him.’

‘“Not to lose a day’s post, I take the op­por­tu­ni­ty of a long re­port being read, de­nounc­ing a pub­lic mis­cre­ant—”’

‘It is a most ex­traor­di­nary thing,’ in­ter­posed the gen­tle Minor Canon, lay­ing down his knife and fork to rub his ear in a vexed man­ner, ‘that these Phi­lan­thropists are al­ways de­nounc­ing some­body. And it is an­oth­er most ex­traor­di­nary thing that they are al­ways so vi­o­lent­ly flush of mis­cre­ants!’

‘“De­nounc­ing a pub­lic mis­cre­ant—”’—the old lady re­sumed, ‘“to get our lit­tle af­fair of busi­ness off my mind. I have spo­ken with my two wards, Neville and He­le­na Land­less, on the sub­ject of their de­fec­tive ed­u­ca­tion, and they give in to the plan pro­posed; as I should have taken good care they did, whether they liked it or not.”’

‘And it is an­oth­er most ex­traor­di­nary thing,’ re­marked the Minor Canon in the same tone as be­fore, ‘that these phi­lan­thropists are so given to seiz­ing their fel­low-crea­tures by the scruff of the neck, and (as one may say) bump­ing them into the paths of peace.—I beg your par­don, Ma dear, for in­ter­rupt­ing.’

‘“There­fore, dear Madam, you will please pre­pare your son, the Rev. Mr. Sep­ti­mus, to ex­pect Neville as an in­mate to be read with, on Mon­day next. On the same day He­le­na will ac­com­pa­ny him to Clois­ter­ham, to take up her quar­ters at the Nuns’ House, the es­tab­lish­ment rec­om­mend­ed by your­self and son joint­ly. Please like­wise to pre­pare for her re­cep­tion and tu­ition there. The terms in both cases are un­der­stood to be ex­act­ly as stat­ed to me in writ­ing by your­self, when I opened a cor­re­spon­dence with you on this sub­ject, after the hon­our of being in­tro­duced to you at your sis­ter’s house in town here. With com­pli­ments to the Rev. Mr. Sep­ti­mus, I am, Dear Madam, Your af­fec­tion­ate broth­er (In Phi­lan­thropy), Luke Hon­eythun­der.”’

‘Well, Ma,’ said Sep­ti­mus, after a lit­tle more rub­bing of his ear, ‘we must try it. There can be no doubt that we have room for an in­mate, and that I have time to be­stow upon him, and in­cli­na­tion too. I must con­fess to feel­ing rather glad that he is not Mr. Hon­eythun­der him­self. Though that seems wretched­ly prej­u­diced—does it not?—for I never saw him. Is he a large man, Ma?’

‘I should call him a large man, my dear,’ the old lady replied after some hes­i­ta­tion, ‘but that his voice is so much larg­er.’

‘Than him­self?’

‘Than any­body.’

‘Hah!’ said Sep­ti­mus. And fin­ished his break­fast as if the flavour of the Su­pe­ri­or Fam­i­ly Sou­chong, and also of the ham and toast and eggs, were a lit­tle on the wane.

Mrs. Crisparkle’s sis­ter, an­oth­er piece of Dres­den china, and match­ing her so neat­ly that they would have made a de­light­ful pair of or­na­ments for the two ends of any ca­pa­cious old-fash­ioned chim­ney­p­iece, and by right should never have been seen apart, was the child­less wife of a cler­gy­man hold­ing Cor­po­ra­tion prefer­ment in Lon­don City. Mr. Hon­eythun­der in his pub­lic char­ac­ter of Pro­fes­sor of Phi­lan­thropy had come to know Mrs. Crisparkle dur­ing the last re-match­ing of the china or­na­ments (in other words dur­ing her last an­nu­al visit to her sis­ter), after a pub­lic oc­ca­sion of a phi­lan­throp­ic na­ture, when cer­tain de­vot­ed or­phans of ten­der years had been glut­ted with plum buns, and plump bump­tious­ness. These were all the an­tecedents known in Minor Canon Cor­ner of the com­ing pupils.

‘I am sure you will agree with me, Ma,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, after think­ing the mat­ter over, ‘that the first thing to be done, is, to put these young peo­ple as much at their ease as pos­si­ble. There is noth­ing dis­in­ter­est­ed in the no­tion, be­cause we can­not be at our ease with them un­less they are at their ease with us. Now, Jasper’s nephew is down here at pre­sent; and like takes to like, and youth takes to youth. He is a cor­dial young fel­low, and we will have him to meet the broth­er and sis­ter at din­ner. That’s three. We can’t think of ask­ing him, with­out ask­ing Jasper. That’s four. Add Miss Twin­kle­ton and the fairy bride that is to be, and that’s six. Add our two selves, and that’s eight. Would eight at a friend­ly din­ner at all put you out, Ma?’

‘Nine would, Sept,’ re­turned the old lady, vis­i­bly ner­vous.

‘My dear Ma, I par­tic­u­larise eight.’

‘The exact size of the table and the room, my dear.’

So it was set­tled that way: and when Mr. Crisparkle called with his moth­er upon Miss Twin­kle­ton, to ar­range for the re­cep­tion of Miss He­le­na Land­less at the Nuns’ House, the two other in­vi­ta­tions hav­ing ref­er­ence to that es­tab­lish­ment were prof­fered and ac­cept­ed. Miss Twin­kle­ton did, in­deed, glance at the globes, as re­gret­ting that they were not formed to be taken out into so­ci­ety; but be­came rec­on­ciled to leav­ing them be­hind. In­struc­tions were then despatched to the Phi­lan­thropist for the de­par­ture and ar­rival, in good time for din­ner, of Mr. Neville and Miss He­le­na; and stock for soup be­came fra­grant in the air of Minor Canon Cor­ner.

In those days there was no rail­way to Clois­ter­ham, and Mr. Sapsea said there never would be. Mr. Sapsea said more; he said there never should be. And yet, mar­vel­lous to con­sid­er, it has come to pass, in these days, that Ex­press Trains don’t think Clois­ter­ham worth stop­ping at, but yell and whirl through it on their larg­er er­rands, cast­ing the dust off their wheels as a tes­ti­mo­ny against its in­signif­i­cance. Some re­mote frag­ment of Main Line to some­where else, there was, which was going to ruin the Money Mar­ket if it failed, and Church and State if it suc­ceed­ed, and (of course), the Con­sti­tu­tion, whether or no; but even that had al­ready so un­set­tled Clois­ter­ham traf­fic, that the traf­fic, de­sert­ing the high road, came sneak­ing in from an un­prece­dent­ed part of the coun­try by a back sta­ble-way, for many years la­belled at the cor­ner: ‘Be­ware of the Dog.’

To this ig­no­min­ious av­enue of ap­proach, Mr. Crisparkle re­paired, await­ing the ar­rival of a short, squat om­nibus, with a dis­pro­por­tion­ate heap of lug­gage on the roof—like a lit­tle Ele­phant with in­finite­ly too much Cas­tle—which was then the daily ser­vice be­tween Clois­ter­ham and ex­ter­nal mankind. As this ve­hi­cle lum­bered up, Mr. Crisparkle could hard­ly see any­thing else of it for a large out­side pas­sen­ger seat­ed on the box, with his el­bows squared, and his hands on his knees, com­press­ing the driv­er into a most un­com­fort­ably small com­pass, and glow­er­ing about him with a strong­ly-marked face.

‘Is this Clois­ter­ham?’ de­mand­ed the pas­sen­ger, in a tremen­dous voice.

‘It is,’ replied the driv­er, rub­bing him­self as if he ached, after throw­ing the reins to the ostler. ‘And I never was so glad to see it.’

‘Tell your mas­ter to make his box-seat wider, then,’ re­turned the pas­sen­ger. ‘Your mas­ter is moral­ly bound—and ought to be legal­ly, under ru­inous penal­ties—to pro­vide for the com­fort of his fel­low-man.’

The driv­er in­sti­tut­ed, with the palms of his hands, a su­per­fi­cial perqui­si­tion into the state of his skele­ton; which seemed to make him anx­ious.

‘Have I sat upon you?’ asked the pas­sen­ger.

‘You have,’ said the driv­er, as if he didn’t like it at all.

‘Take that card, my friend.’

‘I think I won’t de­prive you on it,’ re­turned the driv­er, cast­ing his eyes over it with no great favour, with­out tak­ing it. ‘What’s the good of it to me?’

‘Be a Mem­ber of that So­ci­ety,’ said the pas­sen­ger.

‘What shall I get by it?’ asked the driv­er.

‘Broth­er­hood,’ re­turned the pas­sen­ger, in a fe­ro­cious voice.

‘Thankee,’ said the driv­er, very de­lib­er­ate­ly, as he got down; ‘my moth­er was con­tent­ed with my­self, and so am I. I don’t want no broth­ers.’

‘But you must have them,’ replied the pas­sen­ger, also de­scend­ing, ‘whether you like it or not. I am your broth­er.’

‘I say!’ ex­pos­tu­lat­ed the driv­er, be­com­ing more chafed in tem­per, ‘not too fur! The worm will, when—’

But here, Mr. Crisparkle in­ter­posed, re­mon­strat­ing aside, in a friend­ly voice: ‘Joe, Joe, Joe! don’t for­get your­self, Joe, my good fel­low!’ and then, when Joe peace­ably touched his hat, ac­cost­ing the pas­sen­ger with: ‘Mr. Hon­eythun­der?’

‘That is my name, sir.’

‘My name is Crisparkle.’

‘Rev­erend Mr. Sep­ti­mus? Glad to see you, sir. Neville and He­le­na are in­side. Hav­ing a lit­tle suc­cumbed of late, under the pres­sure of my pub­lic labours, I thought I would take a mouth­ful of fresh air, and come down with them, and re­turn at night. So you are the Rev­erend Mr. Sep­ti­mus, are you?’ sur­vey­ing him on the whole with dis­ap­point­ment, and twist­ing a dou­ble eye­glass by its rib­bon, as if he were roast­ing it, but not oth­er­wise using it. ‘Hah! I ex­pect­ed to see you older, sir.’

‘I hope you will,’ was the good-hu­moured reply.

‘Eh?’ de­mand­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der.

‘Only a poor lit­tle joke. Not worth re­peat­ing.’

‘Joke? Ay; I never see a joke,’ Mr. Hon­eythun­der frown­ing­ly re­tort­ed. ‘A joke is wast­ed upon me, sir. Where are they? He­le­na and Neville, come here! Mr. Crisparkle has come down to meet you.’

An un­usu­al­ly hand­some lithe young fel­low, and an un­usu­al­ly hand­some lithe girl; much alike; both very dark, and very rich in colour; she of al­most the gipsy type; some­thing un­tamed about them both; a cer­tain air upon them of hunter and huntress; yet with­al a cer­tain air of being the ob­jects of the chase, rather than the fol­low­ers. Slen­der, sup­ple, quick of eye and limb; half shy, half de­fi­ant; fierce of look; an in­de­fin­able kind of pause com­ing and going on their whole ex­pres­sion, both of face and form, which might be equal­ly likened to the pause be­fore a crouch or a bound. The rough men­tal notes made in the first five min­utes by Mr. Crisparkle would have read thus, ver­ba­tim.

He in­vit­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der to din­ner, with a trou­bled mind (for the dis­com­fi­ture of the dear old china shep­herdess lay heavy on it), and gave his arm to He­le­na Land­less. Both she and her broth­er, as they walked all to­geth­er through the an­cient streets, took great de­light in what he point­ed out of the Cathe­dral and the Monastery ruin, and won­dered—so his notes ran on—much as if they were beau­ti­ful bar­bar­ic cap­tives brought from some wild trop­i­cal do­min­ion. Mr. Hon­eythun­der walked in the mid­dle of the road, shoul­der­ing the na­tives out of his way, and loud­ly de­vel­op­ing a scheme he had, for mak­ing a raid on all the un­em­ployed per­sons in the Unit­ed King­dom, lay­ing them every one by the heels in jail, and forc­ing them, on pain of prompt ex­ter­mi­na­tion, to be­come phi­lan­thropists.

Mrs. Crisparkle had need of her own share of phi­lan­thropy when she be­held this very large and very loud ex­cres­cence on the lit­tle party. Al­ways some­thing in the na­ture of a Boil upon the face of so­ci­ety, Mr. Hon­eythun­der ex­pand­ed into an in­flam­ma­to­ry Wen in Minor Canon Cor­ner. Though it was not lit­er­al­ly true, as was face­tious­ly charged against him by pub­lic un­be­liev­ers, that he called aloud to his fel­low-crea­tures: ‘Curse your souls and bod­ies, come here and be blessed!’ still his phi­lan­thropy was of that gun­pow­der­ous sort that the dif­fer­ence be­tween it and an­i­mos­i­ty was hard to de­ter­mine. You were to abol­ish mil­i­tary force, but you were first to bring all com­mand­ing of­fi­cers who had done their duty, to trial by court-mar­tial for that of­fence, and shoot them. You were to abol­ish war, but were to make con­verts by mak­ing war upon them, and charg­ing them with lov­ing war as the apple of their eye. You were to have no cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, but were first to sweep off the face of the earth all leg­is­la­tors, ju­rists, and judges, who were of the con­trary opin­ion. You were to have uni­ver­sal con­cord, and were to get it by elim­i­nat­ing all the peo­ple who wouldn’t, or con­sci­en­tious­ly couldn’t, be con­cor­dant. You were to love your broth­er as your­self, but after an in­def­i­nite in­ter­val of ma­lign­ing him (very much as if you hated him), and call­ing him all man­ner of names. Above all things, you were to do noth­ing in pri­vate, or on your own ac­count. You were to go to the of­fices of the Haven of Phi­lan­thropy, and put your name down as a Mem­ber and a Pro­fess­ing Phi­lan­thropist. Then, you were to pay up your sub­scrip­tion, get your card of mem­ber­ship and your riband and medal, and were ev­er­more to live upon a plat­form, and ev­er­more to say what Mr. Hon­eythun­der said, and what the Trea­sur­er said, and what the sub-Trea­sur­er said, and what the Com­mit­tee said, and what the sub-Com­mit­tee said, and what the Sec­re­tary said, and what the Vice-Sec­re­tary said. And this was usu­al­ly said in the unan­i­mous­ly-car­ried res­o­lu­tion under hand and seal, to the ef­fect: ‘That this as­sem­bled Body of Pro­fess­ing Phi­lan­thropists views, with in­dig­nant scorn and con­tempt, not un­mixed with utter de­tes­ta­tion and loathing ab­hor­rence’—in short, the base­ness of all those who do not be­long to it, and pledges it­self to make as many ob­nox­ious state­ments as pos­si­ble about them, with­out being at all par­tic­u­lar as to facts.

The din­ner was a most dole­ful break­down. The phi­lan­thropist de­ranged the sym­me­try of the table, sat him­self in the way of the wait­ing, blocked up the thor­ough­fare, and drove Mr. Tope (who as­sist­ed the par­lour-maid) to the verge of dis­trac­tion by pass­ing plates and dish­es on, over his own head. No­body could talk to any­body, be­cause he held forth to ev­ery­body at once, as if the com­pa­ny had no in­di­vid­u­al ex­is­tence, but were a Meet­ing. He im­pound­ed the Rev­erend Mr. Sep­ti­mus, as an of­fi­cial per­son­age to be ad­dressed, or kind of human peg to hang his or­a­tor­i­cal hat on, and fell into the ex­as­per­at­ing habit, com­mon among such or­a­tors, of im­per­son­at­ing him as a wicked and weak op­po­nent. Thus, he would ask: ‘And will you, sir, now stul­ti­fy your­self by telling me’—and so forth, when the in­no­cent man had not opened his lips, nor meant to open them. Or he would say: ‘Now see, sir, to what a po­si­tion you are re­duced. I will leave you no es­cape. After ex­haust­ing all the re­sources of fraud and false­hood, dur­ing years upon years; after ex­hibit­ing a com­bi­na­tion of das­tard­ly mean­ness with en­san­guined dar­ing, such as the world has not often wit­nessed; you have now the hypocrisy to bend the knee be­fore the most de­grad­ed of mankind, and to sue and whine and howl for mercy!’ Where­at the un­for­tu­nate Minor Canon would look, in part in­dig­nant and in part per­plexed; while his wor­thy moth­er sat bridling, with tears in her eyes, and the re­main­der of the party lapsed into a sort of gelati­nous state, in which there was no flavour or so­lid­i­ty, and very lit­tle re­sis­tance.

But the gush of phi­lan­thropy that burst forth when the de­par­ture of Mr. Hon­eythun­der began to im­pend, must have been high­ly grat­i­fy­ing to the feel­ings of that dis­tin­guished man. His cof­fee was pro­duced, by the spe­cial ac­tiv­i­ty of Mr. Tope, a full hour be­fore he want­ed it. Mr. Crisparkle sat with his watch in his hand for about the same pe­ri­od, lest he should over­stay his time. The four young peo­ple were unan­i­mous in be­liev­ing that the Cathe­dral clock struck three-quar­ters, when it ac­tu­al­ly struck but one. Miss Twin­kle­ton es­ti­mat­ed the dis­tance to the om­nibus at five-and-twen­ty min­utes’ walk, when it was re­al­ly five. The af­fec­tion­ate kind­ness of the whole cir­cle hus­tled him into his great­coat, and shoved him out into the moon­light, as if he were a fugi­tive traitor with whom they sym­pa­thised, and a troop of horse were at the back door. Mr. Crisparkle and his new charge, who took him to the om­nibus, were so fer­vent in their ap­pre­hen­sions of his catch­ing cold, that they shut him up in it in­stant­ly and left him, with still half-an-hour to spare.


CHAP­TER VII
MORE CON­FI­DENCES THAN ONE

‘I know very lit­tle of that gen­tle­man, sir,’ said Neville to the Minor Canon as they turned back.

‘You know very lit­tle of your guardian?’ the Minor Canon re­peat­ed.

‘Al­most noth­ing!’

‘How came he—’

‘To be my guardian? I’ll tell you, sir. I sup­pose you know that we come (my sis­ter and I) from Cey­lon?’

‘In­deed, no.’

‘I won­der at that. We lived with a step­fa­ther there. Our moth­er died there, when we were lit­tle chil­dren. We have had a wretched ex­is­tence. She made him our guardian, and he was a miser­ly wretch who grudged us food to eat, and clothes to wear. At his death, he passed us over to this man; for no bet­ter rea­son that I know of, than his being a friend or con­nex­ion of his, whose name was al­ways in print and catch­ing his at­ten­tion.’

‘That was late­ly, I sup­pose?’

‘Quite late­ly, sir. This step­fa­ther of ours was a cruel brute as well as a grind­ing one. It is well he died when he did, or I might have killed him.’

Mr. Crisparkle stopped short in the moon­light and looked at his hope­ful pupil in con­ster­na­tion.

‘I sur­prise you, sir?’ he said, with a quick change to a sub­mis­sive man­ner.

‘You shock me; un­speak­ably shock me.’

The pupil hung his head for a lit­tle while, as they walked on, and then said: ‘You never saw him beat your sis­ter. I have seen him beat mine, more than once or twice, and I never for­got it.’

‘Noth­ing,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘not even a beloved and beau­ti­ful sis­ter’s tears under das­tard­ly ill-us­age;’ he be­came less se­vere, in spite of him­self, as his in­dig­na­tion rose; ‘could jus­ti­fy those hor­ri­ble ex­pres­sions that you used.’

‘I am sorry I used them, and es­pe­cial­ly to you, sir. I beg to re­call them. But per­mit me to set you right on one point. You spoke of my sis­ter’s tears. My sis­ter would have let him tear her to pieces, be­fore she would have let him be­lieve that he could make her shed a tear.’

Mr. Crisparkle re­viewed those men­tal notes of his, and was nei­ther at all sur­prised to hear it, nor at all dis­posed to ques­tion it.

‘Per­haps you will think it strange, sir,’—this was said in a hes­i­tat­ing voice—‘that I should so soon ask you to allow me to con­fide in you, and to have the kind­ness to hear a word or two from me in my de­fence?’

‘De­fence?’ Mr. Crisparkle re­peat­ed. ‘You are not on your de­fence, Mr. Neville.’

‘I think I am, sir. At least I know I should be, if you were bet­ter ac­quaint­ed with my char­ac­ter.’

‘Well, Mr. Neville,’ was the re­join­der. ‘What if you leave me to find it out?’

‘Since it is your plea­sure, sir,’ an­swered the young man, with a quick change in his man­ner to sullen dis­ap­point­ment: ‘since it is your plea­sure to check me in my im­pulse, I must sub­mit.’

There was that in the tone of this short speech which made the con­sci­en­tious man to whom it was ad­dressed un­easy. It hint­ed to him that he might, with­out mean­ing it, turn aside a trust­ful­ness ben­e­fi­cial to a mis-shapen young mind and per­haps to his own power of di­rect­ing and im­prov­ing it. They were with­in sight of the lights in his win­dows, and he stopped.

‘Let us turn back and take a turn or two up and down, Mr. Neville, or you may not have time to fin­ish what you wish to say to me. You are hasty in think­ing that I mean to check you. Quite the con­trary. I in­vite your con­fi­dence.’

‘You have in­vit­ed it, sir, with­out know­ing it, ever since I came here. I say “ever since,” as if I had been here a week. The truth is, we came here (my sis­ter and I) to quar­rel with you, and af­front you, and break away again.’

‘Re­al­ly?’ said Mr. Crisparkle, at a dead loss for any­thing else to say.

‘You see, we could not know what you were be­fore­hand, sir; could we?’

‘Clear­ly not,’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

‘And hav­ing liked no one else with whom we have ever been brought into con­tact, we had made up our minds not to like you.’

‘Re­al­ly?’ said Mr. Crisparkle again.

‘But we do like you, sir, and we see an un­mis­tak­able dif­fer­ence be­tween your house and your re­cep­tion of us, and any­thing else we have ever known. This—and my hap­pen­ing to be alone with you—and ev­ery­thing around us seem­ing so quiet and peace­ful after Mr. Hon­eythun­der’s de­par­ture—and Clois­ter­ham being so old and grave and beau­ti­ful, with the moon shin­ing on it—these things in­clined me to open my heart.’

‘I quite un­der­stand, Mr. Neville. And it is salu­tary to lis­ten to such in­flu­ences.’

‘In de­scrib­ing my own im­per­fec­tions, sir, I must ask you not to sup­pose that I am de­scrib­ing my sis­ter’s. She has come out of the dis­ad­van­tages of our mis­er­able life, as much bet­ter than I am, as that Cathe­dral tower is high­er than those chim­neys.’

Mr. Crisparkle in his own breast was not so sure of this.

‘I have had, sir, from my ear­li­est re­mem­brance, to sup­press a dead­ly and bit­ter ha­tred. This has made me se­cret and re­venge­ful. I have been al­ways tyran­ni­cal­ly held down by the strong hand. This has driv­en me, in my weak­ness, to the re­source of being false and mean. I have been stint­ed of ed­u­ca­tion, lib­er­ty, money, dress, the very nec­es­saries of life, the com­mon­est plea­sures of child­hood, the com­mon­est pos­ses­sions of youth. This has caused me to be ut­ter­ly want­ing in I don’t know what emo­tions, or re­mem­brances, or good in­stincts—I have not even a name for the thing, you see!—that you have had to work upon in other young men to whom you have been ac­cus­tomed.’

‘This is ev­i­dent­ly true. But this is not en­cour­ag­ing,’ thought Mr. Crisparkle as they turned again.

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

‘As in the case of that re­mark just now,’ thought Mr. Crisparkle.

‘In a last word of ref­er­ence to my sis­ter, sir (we are twin chil­dren), you ought to know, to her hon­our, that noth­ing in our mis­ery ever sub­dued her, though it often cowed me. When we ran away from it (we ran away four times in six years, to be soon brought back and cru­el­ly pun­ished), the flight was al­ways of her plan­ning and lead­ing. Each time she dressed as a boy, and showed the dar­ing of a man. I take it we were seven years old when we first de­camped; but I re­mem­ber, when I lost the pock­et-knife with which she was to have cut her hair short, how des­per­ate­ly she tried to tear it out, or bite it off. I have noth­ing fur­ther to say, sir, ex­cept that I hope you will bear with me and make al­lowance for me.’

‘Of that, Mr. Neville, you may be sure,’ re­turned the Minor Canon. ‘I don’t preach more than I can help, and I will not repay your con­fi­dence with a ser­mon. But I en­treat you to bear in mind, very se­ri­ous­ly and steadi­ly, that if I am to do you any good, it can only be with your own as­sis­tance; and that you can only ren­der that, ef­fi­cient­ly, by seek­ing aid from Heav­en.’

‘I will try to do my part, sir.’

‘And, Mr. Neville, I will try to do mine. Here is my hand on it. May God bless our en­deav­ours!’

They were now stand­ing at his house-door, and a cheer­ful sound of voic­es and laugh­ter was heard with­in.

‘We will take one more turn be­fore going in,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘for I want to ask you a ques­tion. When you said you were in a changed mind con­cern­ing me, you spoke, not only for your­self, but for your sis­ter too?’

‘Un­doubt­ed­ly I did, sir.’

‘Ex­cuse me, Mr. Neville, but I think you have had no op­por­tu­ni­ty of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with your sis­ter, since I met you. Mr. Hon­eythun­der was very elo­quent; but per­haps I may ven­ture to say, with­out ill-na­ture, that he rather mo­nop­o­lised the oc­ca­sion. May you not have an­swered for your sis­ter with­out suf­fi­cient war­rant?’

Neville shook his head with a proud smile.

‘You don’t know, sir, yet, what a com­plete un­der­stand­ing can exist be­tween my sis­ter and me, though no spo­ken word—per­haps hard­ly as much as a look—may have passed be­tween us. She not only feels as I have de­scribed, but she very well knows that I am tak­ing this op­por­tu­ni­ty of speak­ing to you, both for her and for my­self.’

Mr. Crisparkle looked in his face, with some in­creduli­ty; but his face ex­pressed such ab­so­lute and firm con­vic­tion of the truth of what he said, that Mr. Crisparkle looked at the pave­ment, and mused, until they came to his door again.

‘I will ask for one more turn, sir, this time,’ said the young man, with a rather height­ened colour ris­ing in his face. ‘But for Mr. Hon­eythun­der’s—I think you called it elo­quence, sir?’ (some­what slyly.)

‘I—yes, I called it elo­quence,’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

‘But for Mr. Hon­eythun­der’s elo­quence, I might have had no need to ask you what I am going to ask you. This Mr. Edwin Drood, sir: I think that’s the name?’

‘Quite cor­rect,’ said Mr. Crisparkle. ‘D-r-dou­ble o-d.’

‘Does he—or did he—read with you, sir?’

‘Never, Mr. Neville. He comes here vis­it­ing his re­la­tion, Mr. Jasper.’

‘Is Miss Bud his re­la­tion too, sir?’

(‘Now, why should he ask that, with sud­den su­per­cil­ious­ness?’ thought Mr. Crisparkle.) Then he ex­plained, aloud, what he knew of the lit­tle story of their be­trothal.

‘O! that’s it, is it?’ said the young man. ‘I un­der­stand his air of pro­pri­etor­ship now!’

This was said so ev­i­dent­ly to him­self, or to any­body rather than Mr. Crisparkle, that the lat­ter in­stinc­tive­ly felt as if to no­tice it would be al­most tan­ta­mount to notic­ing a pas­sage in a let­ter which he had read by chance over the writ­er’s shoul­der. A mo­ment af­ter­wards they re-en­tered the house.

Mr. Jasper was seat­ed at the piano as they came into his draw­ing-room, and was ac­com­pa­ny­ing Miss Rose­bud while she sang. It was a con­se­quence of his play­ing the ac­com­pa­ni­ment with­out notes, and of her being a heed­less lit­tle crea­ture, very apt to go wrong, that he fol­lowed her lips most at­ten­tive­ly, with his eyes as well as hands; care­ful­ly and soft­ly hint­ing the key-note from time to time. Stand­ing with an arm drawn round her, but with a face far more in­tent on Mr. Jasper than on her singing, stood He­le­na, be­tween whom and her broth­er an in­stan­ta­neous recog­ni­tion passed, in which Mr. Crisparkle saw, or thought he saw, the un­der­stand­ing that had been spo­ken of, flash out. Mr. Neville then took his ad­mir­ing sta­tion, lean­ing against the piano, op­po­site the singer; Mr. Crisparkle sat down by the china shep­herdess; Edwin Drood gal­lant­ly furled and un­furled Miss Twin­kle­ton’s fan; and that lady pas­sive­ly claimed that sort of ex­hibitor’s pro­pri­etor­ship in the ac­com­plish­ment on view, which Mr. Tope, the Verg­er, daily claimed in the Cathe­dral ser­vice.

The song went on. It was a sor­row­ful strain of part­ing, and the fresh young voice was very plain­tive and ten­der. As Jasper watched the pret­ty lips, and ever and again hint­ed the one note, as though it were a low whis­per from him­self, the voice be­came less steady, until all at once the singer broke into a burst of tears, and shrieked out, with her hands over her eyes: ‘I can’t bear this! I am fright­ened! Take me away!’

With one swift turn of her lithe fig­ures He­le­na laid the lit­tle beau­ty on a sofa, as if she had never caught her up. Then, on one knee be­side her, and with one hand upon her rosy mouth, while with the other she ap­pealed to all the rest, He­le­na said to them: ‘It’s noth­ing; it’s all over; don’t speak to her for one minute, and she is well!’

Jasper’s hands had, in the same in­stant, lift­ed them­selves from the keys, and were now poised above them, as though he wait­ed to re­sume. In that at­ti­tude he yet sat quiet: not even look­ing round, when all the rest had changed their places and were re­as­sur­ing one an­oth­er.

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

‘No won­der,’ re­peat­ed He­le­na.

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

‘Not under any cir­cum­stances,’ re­turned He­le­na.

Jasper brought down his hands, looked over his shoul­der, and begged to thank Miss Land­less for her vin­di­ca­tion of his char­ac­ter. Then he fell to dumb­ly play­ing, with­out strik­ing the notes, while his lit­tle pupil was taken to an open win­dow for air, and was oth­er­wise pet­ted and re­stored. When she was brought back, his place was empty. ‘Jack’s gone, Pussy,’ Edwin told her. ‘I am more than half afraid he didn’t like to be charged with being the Mon­ster who had fright­ened you.’ But she an­swered never a word, and shiv­ered, as if they had made her a lit­tle too cold.

Miss Twin­kle­ton now opin­ing that in­deed these were late hours, Mrs. Crisparkle, for find­ing our­selves out­side the walls of the Nuns’ House, and that we who un­der­took the for­ma­tion of the fu­ture wives and moth­ers of Eng­land (the last words in a lower voice, as re­quir­ing to be com­mu­ni­cat­ed in con­fi­dence) were re­al­ly bound (voice com­ing up again) to set a bet­ter ex­am­ple than one of rak­ish habits, wrap­pers were put in req­ui­si­tion, and the two young cav­a­liers vol­un­teered to see the ladies home. It was soon done, and the gate of the Nuns’ House closed upon them.

The board­ers had re­tired, and only Mrs. Tish­er in soli­tary vigil await­ed the new pupil. Her bed­room being with­in Rosa’s, very lit­tle in­tro­duc­tion or ex­pla­na­tion was nec­es­sary, be­fore she was placed in charge of her new friend, and left for the night.

‘This is a blessed re­lief, my dear,’ said He­le­na. ‘I have been dread­ing all day, that I should be brought to bay at this time.’

‘There are not many of us,’ re­turned Rosa, ‘and we are good-na­tured girls; at least the oth­ers are; I can an­swer for them.’

‘I can an­swer for you,’ laughed He­le­na, search­ing the love­ly lit­tle face with her dark, fiery eyes, and ten­der­ly ca­ress­ing the small fig­ure. ‘You will be a friend to me, won’t you?’

‘I hope so. But the idea of my being a friend to you seems too ab­surd, though.’

‘Why?’

‘O, I am such a mite of a thing, and you are so wom­an­ly and hand­some. You seem to have res­o­lu­tion and power enough to crush me. I shrink into noth­ing by the side of your pres­ence even.’

‘I am a ne­glect­ed crea­ture, my dear, un­ac­quaint­ed with all ac­com­plish­ments, sen­si­tive­ly con­scious that I have ev­ery­thing to learn, and deeply ashamed to own my ig­no­rance.’

‘And yet you ac­knowl­edge ev­ery­thing to me!’ said Rosa.

‘My pret­ty one, can I help it? There is a fas­ci­na­tion in you.’

‘O! is there though?’ pout­ed Rosa, half in jest and half in earnest. ‘What a pity Mas­ter Eddy doesn’t feel it more!’

Of course her re­la­tions to­wards that young gen­tle­man had been al­ready im­part­ed in Minor Canon Cor­ner.

‘Why, sure­ly he must love you with all his heart!’ cried He­le­na, with an earnest­ness that threat­ened to blaze into fe­roc­i­ty if he didn’t.

‘Eh? O, well, I sup­pose he does,’ said Rosa, pout­ing again; ‘I am sure I have no right to say he doesn’t. Per­haps it’s my fault. Per­haps I am not as nice to him as I ought to be. I don’t think I am. But it is so ridicu­lous!’

He­le­na’s eyes de­mand­ed what was.

‘We are,’ said Rosa, an­swer­ing as if she had spo­ken. ‘We are such a ridicu­lous cou­ple. And we are al­ways quar­relling.’

‘Why?’

‘Be­cause we both know we are ridicu­lous, my dear!’ Rosa gave that an­swer as if it were the most con­clu­sive an­swer in the world.

He­le­na’s mas­ter­ful look was in­tent upon her face for a few mo­ments, and then she im­pul­sive­ly put out both her hands and said:

‘You will be my friend and help me?’

‘In­deed, my dear, I will,’ replied Rosa, in a tone of af­fec­tion­ate child­ish­ness that went straight and true to her heart; ‘I will be as good a friend as such a mite of a thing can be to such a noble crea­ture as you. And be a friend to me, please; I don’t un­der­stand my­self: and I want a friend who can un­der­stand me, very much in­deed.’

He­le­na Land­less kissed her, and re­tain­ing both her hands said:

‘Who is Mr. Jasper?’

Rosa turned aside her head in an­swer­ing: ‘Eddy’s uncle, and my mu­sic-mas­ter.’

‘You do not love him?’

‘Ugh!’ She put her hands up to her face, and shook with fear or hor­ror.

‘You know that he loves you?’

‘O, don’t, don’t, don’t!’ cried Rosa, drop­ping on her knees, and cling­ing to her new re­source. ‘Don’t tell me of it! He ter­ri­fies me. He haunts my thoughts, like a dread­ful ghost. I feel that I am never safe from him. I feel as if he could pass in through the wall when he is spo­ken of.’ She ac­tu­al­ly did look round, as if she dread­ed to see him stand­ing in the shad­ow be­hind her.

‘Try to tell me more about it, dar­ling.’

‘Yes, I will, I will. Be­cause you are so strong. But hold me the while, and stay with me af­ter­wards.’

‘My child! You speak as if he had threat­ened you in some dark way.’

‘He has never spo­ken to me about—that. Never.’

‘What has he done?’

‘He has made a slave of me with his looks. He has forced me to un­der­stand him, with­out his say­ing a word; and he has forced me to keep si­lence, with­out his ut­ter­ing a threat. When I play, he never moves his eyes from my hands. When I sing, he never moves his eyes from my lips. When he cor­rects me, and strikes a note, or a chord, or plays a pas­sage, he him­self is in the sounds, whis­per­ing that he pur­sues me as a lover, and com­mand­ing me to keep his se­cret. I avoid his eyes, but he forces me to see them with­out look­ing at them. Even when a glaze comes over them (which is some­times the case), and he seems to wan­der away into a fright­ful sort of dream in which he threat­ens most, he obliges me to know it, and to know that he is sit­ting close at my side, more ter­ri­ble to me than ever.’

‘What is this imag­ined threat­en­ing, pret­ty one? What is threat­ened?’

‘I don’t know. I have never even dared to think or won­der what it is.’

‘And was this all, to-night?’

‘This was all; ex­cept that to-night when he watched my lips so close­ly as I was singing, be­sides feel­ing ter­ri­fied I felt ashamed and pas­sion­ate­ly hurt. It was as if he kissed me, and I couldn’t bear it, but cried out. You must never breathe this to any one. Eddy is de­vot­ed to him. But you said to-night that you would not be afraid of him, under any cir­cum­stances, and that gives me—who am so much afraid of him—courage to tell only you. Hold me! Stay with me! I am too fright­ened to be left by my­self.’

The lus­trous gip­sy-face drooped over the cling­ing arms and bosom, and the wild black hair fell down pro­tect­ing­ly over the child­ish form. There was a slum­ber­ing gleam of fire in the in­tense dark eyes, though they were then soft­ened with com­pas­sion and ad­mi­ra­tion. Let whom­so­ev­er it most con­cerned look well to it!


CHAP­TER VIII
DAG­GERS DRAWN

The two young men, hav­ing seen the damsels, their charges, enter the court­yard of the Nuns’ House, and find­ing them­selves cold­ly stared at by the brazen door-plate, as if the bat­tered old beau with the glass in his eye were in­so­lent, look at one an­oth­er, look along the per­spec­tive of the moon­lit street, and slow­ly walk away to­geth­er.

‘Do you stay here long, Mr. Drood?’ says Neville.

‘Not this time,’ is the care­less an­swer. ‘I leave for Lon­don again, to-mor­row. But I shall be here, off and on, until next Mid­sum­mer; then I shall take my leave of Clois­ter­ham, and Eng­land too; for many a long day, I ex­pect.’

‘Are you going abroad?’

‘Going to wake up Egypt a lit­tle,’ is the con­de­scend­ing an­swer.

‘Are you read­ing?’

‘Read­ing?’ re­peats Edwin Drood, with a touch of con­tempt. ‘No. Doing, work­ing, en­gi­neer­ing. My small pat­ri­mo­ny was left a part of the cap­i­tal of the Firm I am with, by my fa­ther, a for­mer part­ner; and I am a charge upon the Firm until I come of age; and then I step into my mod­est share in the con­cern. Jack—you met him at din­ner—is, until then, my guardian and trustee.’

‘I heard from Mr. Crisparkle of your other good for­tune.’

‘What do you mean by my other good for­tune?’

Neville has made his re­mark in a watch­ful­ly ad­vanc­ing, and yet furtive and shy man­ner, very ex­pres­sive of that pe­cu­liar air al­ready no­ticed, of being at once hunter and hunt­ed. Edwin has made his re­tort with an abrupt­ness not at all po­lite. They stop and in­ter­change a rather heat­ed look.

‘I hope,’ says Neville, ‘there is no of­fence, Mr. Drood, in my in­no­cent­ly re­fer­ring to your be­trothal?’

‘By George!’ cries Edwin, lead­ing on again at a some­what quick­er pace; ‘ev­ery­body in this chat­ter­ing old Clois­ter­ham refers to it I won­der no pub­lic-house has been set up, with my por­trait for the sign of The Be­trothed’s Head. Or Pussy’s por­trait. One or the other.’

‘I am not ac­count­able for Mr. Crisparkle’s men­tion­ing the mat­ter to me, quite open­ly,’ Neville be­gins.

‘No; that’s true; you are not,’ Edwin Drood as­sents.

‘But,’ re­sumes Neville, ‘I am ac­count­able for men­tion­ing it to you. And I did so, on the sup­po­si­tion that you could not fail to be high­ly proud of it.’

Now, there are these two cu­ri­ous touch­es of human na­ture work­ing the se­cret springs of this di­a­logue. Neville Land­less is al­ready enough im­pressed by Lit­tle Rose­bud, to feel in­dig­nant that Edwin Drood (far below her) should hold his prize so light­ly. Edwin Drood is al­ready enough im­pressed by He­le­na, to feel in­dig­nant that He­le­na’s broth­er (far below her) should dis­pose of him so cool­ly, and put him out of the way so en­tire­ly.

How­ev­er, the last re­mark had bet­ter be an­swered. So, says Edwin:

‘I don’t know, Mr. Neville’ (adopt­ing that mode of ad­dress from Mr. Crisparkle), ‘that what peo­ple are proud­est of, they usu­al­ly talk most about; I don’t know ei­ther, that what they are proud­est of, they most like other peo­ple to talk about. But I live a busy life, and I speak under cor­rec­tion by you read­ers, who ought to know ev­ery­thing, and I dare­say do.’

By this time they had both be­come sav­age; Mr. Neville out in the open; Edwin Drood under the trans­par­ent cover of a pop­u­lar tune, and a stop now and then to pre­tend to ad­mire pic­turesque ef­fects in the moon­light be­fore him.

‘It does not seem to me very civil in you,’ re­marks Neville, at length, ‘to re­flect upon a stranger who comes here, not hav­ing had your ad­van­tages, to try to make up for lost time. But, to be sure, I was not brought up in “busy life,” and my ideas of ci­vil­i­ty were formed among Hea­thens.’

‘Per­haps, the best ci­vil­i­ty, what­ev­er kind of peo­ple we are brought up among,’ re­torts Edwin Drood, ‘is to mind our own busi­ness. If you will set me that ex­am­ple, I promise to fol­low it.’

‘Do you know that you take a great deal too much upon your­self?’ is the angry re­join­der, ‘and that in the part of the world I come from, you would be called to ac­count for it?’

‘By whom, for in­stance?’ asks Edwin Drood, com­ing to a halt, and sur­vey­ing the other with a look of dis­dain.

But, here a startling right hand is laid on Edwin’s shoul­der, and Jasper stands be­tween them. For, it would seem that he, too, has strolled round by the Nuns’ House, and has come up be­hind them on the shad­owy side of the road.

‘Ned, Ned, Ned!’ he says; ‘we must have no more of this. I don’t like this. I have over­heard high words be­tween you two. Re­mem­ber, my dear boy, you are al­most in the po­si­tion of host to-night. You be­long, as it were, to the place, and in a man­ner rep­re­sent it to­wards a stranger. Mr. Neville is a stranger, and you should re­spect the obli­ga­tions of hos­pi­tal­i­ty. And, Mr. Neville,’ lay­ing his left hand on the inner shoul­der of that young gen­tle­man, and thus walk­ing on be­tween them, hand to shoul­der on ei­ther side: ‘you will par­don me; but I ap­peal to you to gov­ern your tem­per too. Now, what is amiss? But why ask! Let there be noth­ing amiss, and the ques­tion is su­per­flu­ous. We are all three on a good un­der­stand­ing, are we not?’

After a silent strug­gle be­tween the two young men who shall speak last, Edwin Drood strikes in with: ‘So far as I am con­cerned, Jack, there is no anger in me.’

‘Nor in me,’ says Neville Land­less, though not so freely; or per­haps so care­less­ly. ‘But if Mr. Drood knew all that lies be­hind me, far away from here, he might know bet­ter how it is that sharp-edged words have sharp edges to wound me.’

‘Per­haps,’ says Jasper, in a sooth­ing man­ner, ‘we had bet­ter not qual­i­fy our good un­der­stand­ing. We had bet­ter not say any­thing hav­ing the ap­pear­ance of a re­mon­strance or con­di­tion; it might not seem gen­er­ous. Frankly and freely, you see there is no anger in Ned. Frankly and freely, there is no anger in you, Mr. Neville?’

‘None at all, Mr. Jasper.’ Still, not quite so frankly or so freely; or, be it said once again, not quite so care­less­ly per­haps.

‘All over then! Now, my bach­e­lor gate­house is a few yards from here, and the heater is on the fire, and the wine and glass­es are on the table, and it is not a stone’s throw from Minor Canon Cor­ner. Ned, you are up and away to-mor­row. We will carry Mr. Neville in with us, to take a stir­rup-cup.’

‘With all my heart, Jack.’

‘And with all mine, Mr. Jasper.’ Neville feels it im­pos­si­ble to say less, but would rather not go. He has an im­pres­sion upon him that he has lost hold of his tem­per; feels that Edwin Drood’s cool­ness, so far from being in­fec­tious, makes him red-hot.

Mr. Jasper, still walk­ing in the cen­tre, hand to shoul­der on ei­ther side, beau­ti­ful­ly turns the Re­frain of a drink­ing song, and they all go up to his rooms. There, the first ob­ject vis­i­ble, when he adds the light of a lamp to that of the fire, is the por­trait over the chim­neyp­ic­ce. It is not an ob­ject cal­cu­lat­ed to im­prove the un­der­stand­ing be­tween the two young men, as rather awk­ward­ly re­viv­ing the sub­ject of their dif­fer­ence. Ac­cord­ing­ly, they both glance at it con­scious­ly, but say noth­ing. Jasper, how­ev­er (who would ap­pear from his con­duct to have gained but an im­per­fect clue to the cause of their late high words), di­rect­ly calls at­ten­tion to it.

‘You recog­nise that pic­ture, Mr. Neville?’ shad­ing the lamp to throw the light upon it.

‘I recog­nise it, but it is far from flat­ter­ing the orig­i­nal.’

‘O, you are hard upon it! It was done by Ned, who made me a pre­sent of it.’

‘I am sorry for that, Mr. Drood.’ Neville apol­o­gis­es, with a real in­ten­tion to apol­o­gise; ‘if I had known I was in the artist’s pres­ence—’

‘O, a joke, sir, a mere joke,’ Edwin cuts in, with a pro­vok­ing yawn. ‘A lit­tle hu­mour­ing of Pussy’s points! I’m going to paint her grave­ly, one of these days, if she’s good.’

The air of leisure­ly pa­tron­age and in­dif­fer­ence with which this is said, as the speak­er throws him­self back in a chair and clasps his hands at the back of his head, as a rest for it, is very ex­as­per­at­ing to the ex­citable and ex­cit­ed Neville. Jasper looks ob­ser­vant­ly from the one to the other, slight­ly smiles, and turns his back to mix a jug of mulled wine at the fire. It seems to re­quire much mix­ing and com­pound­ing.

‘I sup­pose, Mr. Neville,’ says Edwin, quick to re­sent the in­dig­nant protest against him­self in the face of young Land­less, which is fully as vis­i­ble as the por­trait, or the fire, or the lamp: ‘I sup­pose that if you paint­ed the pic­ture of your lady love—’

‘I can’t paint,’ is the hasty in­ter­rup­tion.

‘That’s your mis­for­tune, and not your fault. You would if you could. But if you could, I sup­pose you would make her (no mat­ter what she was in re­al­i­ty), Juno, Min­er­va, Diana, and Venus, all in one. Eh?’

‘I have no lady love, and I can’t say.’

‘If I were to try my hand,’ says Edwin, with a boy­ish boast­ful­ness get­ting up in him, ‘on a por­trait of Miss Land­less—in earnest, mind you; in earnest—you should see what I could do!’

‘My sis­ter’s con­sent to sit for it being first got, I sup­pose? As it never will be got, I am afraid I shall never see what you can do. I must bear the loss.’

Jasper turns round from the fire, fills a large gob­let glass for Neville, fills a large gob­let glass for Edwin, and hands each his own; then fills for him­self, say­ing:

‘Come, Mr. Neville, we are to drink to my nephew, Ned. As it is his foot that is in the stir­rup—metaphor­i­cal­ly—our stir­rup-cup is to be de­vot­ed to him. Ned, my dear­est fel­low, my love!’

Jasper sets the ex­am­ple of near­ly emp­ty­ing his glass, and Neville fol­lows it. Edwin Drood says, ‘Thank you both very much,’ and fol­lows the dou­ble ex­am­ple.

‘Look at him,’ cries Jasper, stretch­ing out his hand ad­mir­ing­ly and ten­der­ly, though ral­ly­ing­ly too. ‘See where he lounges so eas­i­ly, Mr. Neville! The world is all be­fore him where to choose. A life of stir­ring work and in­ter­est, a life of change and ex­cite­ment, a life of do­mes­tic ease and love! Look at him!’

Edwin Drood’s face has be­come quick­ly and re­mark­ably flushed with the wine; so has the face of Neville Land­less. Edwin still sits thrown back in his chair, mak­ing that rest of clasped hands for his head.

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

‘Upon my soul, Jack,’ says Edwin, com­pla­cent­ly, ‘I feel quite apolo­get­ic for hav­ing my way smoothed as you de­scribe. But you know what I know, Jack, and it may not be so very easy as it seems, after all. May it, Pussy?’ To the por­trait, with a snap of his thumb and fin­ger. ‘We have got to hit it off yet; haven’t we, Pussy? You know what I mean, Jack.’

His speech has be­come thick and in­dis­tinct. Jasper, quiet and self-pos­sessed, looks to Neville, as ex­pect­ing his an­swer or com­ment. When Neville speaks, his speech is also thick and in­dis­tinct.

‘It might have been bet­ter for Mr. Drood to have known some hard­ships,’ he says, de­fi­ant­ly.

‘Pray,’ re­torts Edwin, turn­ing mere­ly his eyes in that di­rec­tion, ‘pray why might it have been bet­ter for Mr. Drood to have known some hard­ships?’

‘Ay,’ Jasper as­sents, with an air of in­ter­est; ‘let us know why?’

‘Be­cause they might have made him more sen­si­ble,’ says Neville, ‘of good for­tune that is not by any means nec­es­sar­i­ly the re­sult of his own mer­its.’

Mr. Jasper quick­ly looks to his nephew for his re­join­der.

‘Have you known hard­ships, may I ask?’ says Edwin Drood, sit­ting up­right.

Mr. Jasper quick­ly looks to the other for his re­tort.

‘I have.’

‘And what have they made you sen­si­ble of?’

Mr. Jasper’s play of eyes be­tween the two holds good through­out the di­a­logue, to the end.

‘I have told you once be­fore to-night.’

‘You have done noth­ing of the sort.’

‘I tell you I have. That you take a great deal too much upon your­self.’

‘You added some­thing else to that, if I re­mem­ber?’

‘Yes, I did say some­thing else.’

‘Say it again.’

‘I said that in the part of the world I come from, you would be called to ac­count for it.’

‘Only there?’ cries Edwin Drood, with a con­temp­tu­ous laugh. ‘A long way off, I be­lieve? Yes; I see! That part of the world is at a safe dis­tance.’

‘Say here, then,’ re­joins the other, ris­ing in a fury. ‘Say any­where! Your van­i­ty is in­tol­er­a­ble, your con­ceit is be­yond en­durance; you talk as if you were some rare and pre­cious prize, in­stead of a com­mon boast­er. You are a com­mon fel­low, and a com­mon boast­er.’

‘Pooh, pooh,’ says Edwin Drood, equal­ly fu­ri­ous, but more col­lect­ed; ‘how should you know? You may know a black com­mon fel­low, or a black com­mon boast­er, when you see him (and no doubt you have a large ac­quain­tance that way); but you are no judge of white men.’

This in­sult­ing al­lu­sion to his dark skin in­fu­ri­ates Neville to that vi­o­lent de­gree, that he flings the dregs of his wine at Edwin Drood, and is in the act of fling­ing the gob­let after it, when his arm is caught in the nick of time by Jasper.

‘Ned, my dear fel­low!’ he cries in a loud voice; ‘I en­treat you, I com­mand you, to be still!’ There has been a rush of all the three, and a clat­ter­ing of glass­es and over­turn­ing of chairs. ‘Mr. Neville, for shame! Give this glass to me. Open your hand, sir. I will have it!’

But Neville throws him off, and paus­es for an in­stant, in a rag­ing pas­sion, with the gob­let yet in his up­lift­ed hand. Then, he dash­es it down under the grate, with such force that the bro­ken splin­ters fly out again in a show­er; and he leaves the house.

When he first emerges into the night air, noth­ing around him is still or steady; noth­ing around him shows like what it is; he only knows that he stands with a bare head in the midst of a blood-red whirl, wait­ing to be strug­gled with, and to strug­gle to the death.

But, noth­ing hap­pen­ing, and the moon look­ing down upon him as if he were dead after a fit of wrath, he holds his steam-ham­mer beat­ing head and heart, and stag­gers away. Then, he be­comes half-con­scious of hav­ing heard him­self bolt­ed and barred out, like a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal; and thinks what shall he do?

Some wild­ly pas­sion­ate ideas of the river dis­solve under the spell of the moon­light on the Cathe­dral and the graves, and the re­mem­brance of his sis­ter, and the thought of what he owes to the good man who has but that very day won his con­fi­dence and given him his pledge. He re­pairs to Minor Canon Cor­ner, and knocks soft­ly at the door.

It is Mr. Crisparkle’s cus­tom to sit up last of the early house­hold, very soft­ly touch­ing his piano and prac­tis­ing his favourite parts in con­cert­ed vocal music. The south wind that goes where it lists, by way of Minor Canon Cor­ner on a still night, is not more sub­dued than Mr. Crisparkle at such times, re­gard­ful of the slum­bers of the china shep­herdess.

His knock is im­me­di­ate­ly an­swered by Mr. Crisparkle him­self. When he opens the door, can­dle in hand, his cheer­ful face falls, and dis­ap­point­ed amaze­ment is in it.

‘Mr. Neville! In this dis­or­der! Where have you been?’

‘I have been to Mr. Jasper’s, sir. With his nephew.’

‘Come in.’

The Minor Canon props him by the elbow with a strong hand (in a strict­ly sci­en­tif­ic man­ner, wor­thy of his morn­ing train­ings), and turns him into his own lit­tle book-room, and shuts the door.’

‘I have begun ill, sir. I have begun dread­ful­ly ill.’

‘Too true. You are not sober, Mr. Neville.’

‘I am afraid I am not, sir, though I can sat­is­fy you at an­oth­er time that I have had a very lit­tle in­deed to drink, and that it over­came me in the strangest and most sud­den man­ner.’

‘Mr. Neville, Mr. Neville,’ says the Minor Canon, shak­ing his head with a sor­row­ful smile; ‘I have heard that said be­fore.’

‘I think—my mind is much con­fused, but I think—it is equal­ly true of Mr. Jasper’s nephew, sir.’

‘Very like­ly,’ is the dry re­join­der.

‘We quar­relled, sir. He in­sult­ed me most gross­ly. He had heat­ed that tiger­ish blood I told you of to-day, be­fore then.’

‘Mr. Neville,’ re­joins the Minor Canon, mild­ly, but firm­ly: ‘I re­quest you not to speak to me with that clenched right hand. Un­clench it, if you please.’

‘He goad­ed me, sir,’ pur­sues the young man, in­stant­ly obey­ing, ‘be­yond my power of en­durance. I can­not say whether or no he meant it at first, but he did it. He cer­tain­ly meant it at last. In short, sir,’ with an ir­re­press­ible out­burst, ‘in the pas­sion into which he lashed me, I would have cut him down if I could, and I tried to do it.’

‘You have clenched that hand again,’ is Mr. Crisparkle’s quiet com­men­tary.

‘I beg your par­don, sir.’

‘You know your room, for I showed it you be­fore din­ner; but I will ac­com­pa­ny you to it once more. Your arm, if you please. Soft­ly, for the house is all a-bed.’

Scoop­ing his hand into the same sci­en­tif­ic el­bow-rest as be­fore, and back­ing it up with the inert strength of his arm, as skil­ful­ly as a Po­lice Ex­pert, and with an ap­par­ent re­pose quite unattain­able by novices, Mr. Crisparkle con­ducts his pupil to the pleas­ant and or­der­ly old room pre­pared for him. Ar­rived there, the young man throws him­self into a chair, and, fling­ing his arms upon his read­ing-table, rests his head upon them with an air of wretched self-re­proach.

The gen­tle Minor Canon has had it in his thoughts to leave the room, with­out a word. But look­ing round at the door, and see­ing this de­ject­ed fig­ure, he turns back to it, touch­es it with a mild hand, says ‘Good night!’ A sob is his only ac­knowl­edg­ment. He might have had many a worse; per­haps, could have had few bet­ter.

An­oth­er soft knock at the outer door at­tracts his at­ten­tion as he goes down-stairs. He opens it to Mr. Jasper, hold­ing in his hand the pupil’s hat.

‘We have had an awful scene with him,’ says Jasper, in a low voice.

‘Has it been so bad as that?’

‘Mur­der­ous!’

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

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

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

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

‘Ah!’ thinks Mr. Crisparkle, ‘so he said!’

‘You, my dear sir,’ pur­sues Jasper, tak­ing his hand, ‘even you, have ac­cept­ed a dan­ger­ous charge.’

‘You need have no fear for me, Jasper,’ re­turns Mr. Crisparkle, with a quiet smile. ‘I have none for my­self.’

‘I have none for my­self,’ re­turns Jasper, with an em­pha­sis on the last pro­noun, ‘be­cause I am not, nor am I in the way of being, the ob­ject of his hos­til­i­ty. But you may be, and my dear boy has been. Good night!’

Mr. Crisparkle goes in, with the hat that has so eas­i­ly, so al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly, ac­quired the right to be hung up in his hall; hangs it up; and goes thought­ful­ly to bed.


CHAP­TER IX
BIRDS IN THE BUSH

Rosa, hav­ing no re­la­tion that she knew of in the world, had, from the sev­enth year of her age, known no home but the Nuns’ House, and no moth­er but Miss Twin­kle­ton. Her re­mem­brance of her own moth­er was of a pret­ty lit­tle crea­ture like her­self (not much older than her­self it seemed to her), who had been brought home in her fa­ther’s arms, drowned. The fatal ac­ci­dent had hap­pened at a party of plea­sure. Every fold and colour in the pret­ty sum­mer dress, and even the long wet hair, with scat­tered petals of ru­ined flow­ers still cling­ing to it, as the dead young fig­ure, in its sad, sad beau­ty lay upon the bed, were fixed in­deli­bly in Rosa’s rec­ol­lec­tion. So were the wild de­spair and the sub­se­quent bowed-down grief of her poor young fa­ther, who died bro­ken-heart­ed on the first an­niver­sary of that hard day.

The be­trothal of Rosa grew out of the sooth­ing of his year of men­tal dis­tress by his fast friend and old col­lege com­pan­ion, Drood: who like­wise had been left a wid­ow­er in his youth. But he, too, went the silent road into which all earth­ly pil­grim­ages merge, some soon­er, and some later; and thus the young cou­ple had come to be as they were.

The at­mo­sphere of pity sur­round­ing the lit­tle or­phan girl when she first came to Clois­ter­ham, had never cleared away. It had taken brighter hues as she grew older, hap­pi­er, pret­ti­er; now it had been gold­en, now roseate, and now azure; but it had al­ways adorned her with some soft light of its own. The gen­er­al de­sire to con­sole and ca­ress her, had caused her to be treat­ed in the be­gin­ning as a child much younger than her years; the same de­sire had caused her to be still pet­ted when she was a child no longer. Who should be her favourite, who should an­tic­i­pate this or that small pre­sent, or do her this or that small ser­vice; who should take her home for the hol­i­days; who should write to her the of­ten­est when they were sep­a­rat­ed, and whom she would most re­joice to see again when they were re­unit­ed; even these gen­tle ri­val­ries were not with­out their slight dash­es of bit­ter­ness in the Nuns’ House. Well for the poor Nuns in their day, if they hid no hard­er strife under their veils and rosaries!

Thus Rosa had grown to be an ami­able, giddy, wil­ful, win­ning lit­tle crea­ture; spoilt, in the sense of count­ing upon kind­ness from all around her; but not in the sense of re­pay­ing it with in­dif­fer­ence. Pos­sess­ing an ex­haust­less well of af­fec­tion in her na­ture, its sparkling wa­ters had fresh­ened and bright­ened the Nuns’ House for years, and yet its depths had never yet been moved: what might be­tide when that came to pass; what de­vel­op­ing changes might fall upon the heed­less head, and light heart, then; re­mained to be seen.

By what means the news that there had been a quar­rel be­tween the two young men overnight, in­volv­ing even some kind of on­slaught by Mr. Neville upon Edwin Drood, got into Miss Twin­kle­ton’s es­tab­lish­ment be­fore break­fast, it is im­pos­si­ble to say. Whether it was brought in by the birds of the air, or came blow­ing in with the very air it­self, when the case­ment win­dows were set open; whether the baker brought it knead­ed into the bread, or the milk­man de­liv­ered it as part of the adul­ter­ation of his milk; or the house­maids, beat­ing the dust out of their mats against the gateposts, re­ceived it in ex­change de­posit­ed on the mats by the town at­mo­sphere; cer­tain it is that the news per­me­at­ed every gable of the old build­ing be­fore Miss Twin­kle­ton was down, and that Miss Twin­kle­ton her­self re­ceived it through Mrs. Tish­er, while yet in the act of dress­ing; or (as she might have ex­pressed the phrase to a par­ent or guardian of a mytho­log­i­cal turn) of sac­ri­fic­ing to the Graces.

Miss Land­less’s broth­er had thrown a bot­tle at Mr. Edwin Drood.

Miss Land­less’s broth­er had thrown a knife at Mr. Edwin Drood.

A knife be­came sug­ges­tive of a fork; and Miss Land­less’s broth­er had thrown a fork at Mr. Edwin Drood.

As in the gov­ern­ing prece­dence of Peter Piper, al­leged to have picked the peck of pick­led pep­per, it was held phys­i­cal­ly de­sir­able to have ev­i­dence of the ex­is­tence of the peck of pick­led pep­per which Peter Piper was al­leged to have picked; so, in this case, it was held psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly im­por­tant to know why Miss Land­less’s broth­er threw a bot­tle, knife, or fork-or bot­tle, knife, and fork—for the cook had been given to un­der­stand it was all three—at Mr. Edwin Drood?

Well, then. Miss Land­less’s broth­er had said he ad­mired Miss Bud. Mr. Edwin Drood had said to Miss Land­less’s broth­er that he had no busi­ness to ad­mire Miss Bud. Miss Land­less’s broth­er had then ‘up’d’ (this was the cook’s exact in­for­ma­tion) with the bot­tle, knife, fork, and de­canter (the de­canter now cool­ly fly­ing at ev­ery­body’s head, with­out the least in­tro­duc­tion), and thrown them all at Mr. Edwin Drood.

Poor lit­tle Rosa put a fore­fin­ger into each of her ears when these ru­mours began to cir­cu­late, and re­tired into a cor­ner, be­seech­ing not to be told any more; but Miss Land­less, beg­ging per­mis­sion of Miss Twin­kle­ton to go and speak with her broth­er, and pret­ty plain­ly show­ing that she would take it if it were not given, struck out the more def­i­nite course of going to Mr. Crisparkle’s for ac­cu­rate in­tel­li­gence.

When she came back (being first clos­et­ed with Miss Twin­kle­ton, in order that any­thing ob­jec­tion­able in her tid­ings might be re­tained by that dis­creet fil­ter), she im­part­ed to Rosa only, what had taken place; dwelling with a flushed cheek on the provo­ca­tion her broth­er had re­ceived, but al­most lim­it­ing it to that last gross af­front as crown­ing ‘some other words be­tween them,’ and, out of con­sid­er­a­tion for her new friend, pass­ing light­ly over the fact that the other words had orig­i­nat­ed in her lover’s tak­ing things in gen­er­al so very eas­i­ly. To Rosa di­rect, she brought a pe­ti­tion from her broth­er that she would for­give him; and, hav­ing de­liv­ered it with sis­ter­ly earnest­ness, made an end of the sub­ject.

It was re­served for Miss Twin­kle­ton to tone down the pub­lic mind of the Nuns’ House. That lady, there­fore, en­ter­ing in a state­ly man­ner what ple­beians might have called the school-room, but what, in the pa­tri­cian lan­guage of the head of the Nuns’ House, was eu­phuis­ti­cal­ly, not to say round-about­ed­ly, de­nom­i­nat­ed ‘the apart­ment al­lot­ted to study,’ and say­ing with a foren­sic air, ‘Ladies!’ all rose. Mrs. Tish­er at the same time grouped her­self be­hind her chief, as rep­re­sent­ing Queen Eliz­a­beth’s first his­tor­i­cal fe­male friend at Tilbury fort. Miss Twin­kle­ton then pro­ceed­ed to re­mark that Ru­mour, Ladies, had been rep­re­sent­ed by the bard of Avon—need­less were it to men­tion the im­mor­tal Shake­speare, also called the Swan of his na­tive river, not im­prob­a­bly with some ref­er­ence to the an­cient su­per­sti­tion that that bird of grace­ful plumage (Miss Jen­nings will please stand up­right) sang sweet­ly on the ap­proach of death, for which we have no or­nitho­log­i­cal au­thor­i­ty,—Ru­mour, Ladies, had been rep­re­sent­ed by that bard—hem!—

‘who drew
The cel­e­brat­ed Jew,’

as paint­ed full of tongues. Ru­mour in Clois­ter­ham (Miss Fer­di­nand will hon­our me with her at­ten­tion) was no ex­cep­tion to the great lim­n­er’s por­trait of Ru­mour else­where. A slight fra­cas be­tween two young gen­tle­men oc­cur­ring last night with­in a hun­dred miles of these peace­ful walls (Miss Fer­di­nand, being ap­par­ent­ly in­cor­ri­gi­ble, will have the kind­ness to write out this evening, in the orig­i­nal lan­guage, the first four fa­bles of our vi­va­cious neigh­bour, Mon­sieur La Fontaine) had been very gross­ly ex­ag­ger­at­ed by Ru­mour’s voice. In the first alarm and anx­i­ety aris­ing from our sym­pa­thy with a sweet young friend, not whol­ly to be dis­so­ci­at­ed from one of the glad­i­a­tors in the blood­less arena in ques­tion (the im­pro­pri­ety of Miss Reynolds’s ap­pear­ing to stab her­self in the hand with a pin, is far too ob­vi­ous, and too glar­ing­ly un­la­dy­like, to be point­ed out), we de­scend­ed from our maid­en el­e­va­tion to dis­cuss this un­con­ge­nial and this unfit theme. Re­spon­si­ble in­quiries hav­ing as­sured us that it was but one of those ‘airy noth­ings’ point­ed at by the Poet (whose name and date of birth Miss Gig­gles will sup­ply with­in half an hour), we would now dis­card the sub­ject, and con­cen­trate our minds upon the grate­ful labours of the day.

But the sub­ject so sur­vived all day, nev­er­the­less, that Miss Fer­di­nand got into new trou­ble by sur­rep­ti­tious­ly clap­ping on a paper mous­tache at din­ner-time, and going through the mo­tions of aim­ing a wa­ter-bot­tle at Miss Gig­gles, who drew a table-spoon in de­fence.

Now, Rosa thought of this un­lucky quar­rel a great deal, and thought of it with an un­com­fort­able feel­ing that she was in­volved in it, as cause, or con­se­quence, or what not, through being in a false po­si­tion al­to­geth­er as to her mar­riage en­gage­ment. Never free from such un­easi­ness when she was with her af­fi­anced hus­band, it was not like­ly that she would be free from it when they were apart. To-day, too, she was cast in upon her­self, and de­prived of the re­lief of talk­ing freely with her new friend, be­cause the quar­rel had been with He­le­na’s broth­er, and He­le­na undis­guis­ed­ly avoid­ed the sub­ject as a del­i­cate and dif­fi­cult one to her­self. At this crit­i­cal time, of all times, Rosa’s guardian was an­nounced as hav­ing come to see her.

Mr. Grew­gious had been well se­lect­ed for his trust, as a man of in­cor­rupt­ible in­tegri­ty, but cer­tain­ly for no other ap­pro­pri­ate qual­i­ty dis­cernible on the sur­face. He was an arid, sandy man, who, if he had been put into a grind­ing-mill, looked as if he would have ground im­me­di­ate­ly into high-dried snuff. He had a scanty flat crop of hair, in colour and con­sis­ten­cy like some very mangy yel­low fur tip­pet; it was so un­like hair, that it must have been a wig, but for the stu­pen­dous im­prob­a­bil­i­ty of any­body’s vol­un­tar­i­ly sport­ing such a head. The lit­tle play of fea­ture that his face pre­sent­ed, was cut deep into it, in a few hard curves that made it more like work; and he had cer­tain notch­es in his fore­head, which looked as though Na­ture had been about to touch them into sen­si­bil­i­ty or re­fine­ment, when she had im­pa­tient­ly thrown away the chis­el, and said: ‘I re­al­ly can­not be wor­ried to fin­ish off this man; let him go as he is.’

With too great length of throat at his upper end, and too much an­kle-bone and heel at his lower; with an awk­ward and hes­i­tat­ing man­ner; with a sham­bling walk; and with what is called a near sight—which per­haps pre­vent­ed his ob­serv­ing how much white cot­ton stock­ing he dis­played to the pub­lic eye, in con­trast with his black suit—Mr. Grew­gious still had some strange ca­pac­i­ty in him of mak­ing on the whole an agree­able im­pres­sion.

Mr. Grew­gious was dis­cov­ered by his ward, much dis­com­fit­ed by being in Miss Twin­kle­ton’s com­pa­ny in Miss Twin­kle­ton’s own sa­cred room. Dim fore­bod­ings of being ex­am­ined in some­thing, and not com­ing well out of it, seemed to op­press the poor gen­tle­man when found in these cir­cum­stances.

‘My dear, how do you do? I am glad to see you. My dear, how much im­proved you are. Per­mit me to hand you a chair, my dear.’

Miss Twin­kle­ton rose at her lit­tle writ­ing-table, say­ing, with gen­er­al sweet­ness, as to the po­lite Uni­verse: ‘Will you per­mit me to re­tire?’

‘By no means, madam, on my ac­count. I beg that you will not move.’

‘I must en­treat per­mis­sion to move,’ re­turned Miss Twin­kle­ton, re­peat­ing the word with a charm­ing grace; ‘but I will not with­draw, since you are so oblig­ing. If I wheel my desk to this cor­ner win­dow, shall I be in the way?’

‘Madam! In the way!’

‘You are very kind.—Rosa, my dear, you will be under no re­straint, I am sure.’

Here Mr. Grew­gious, left by the fire with Rosa, said again: ‘My dear, how do you do? I am glad to see you, my dear.’ And hav­ing wait­ed for her to sit down, sat down him­self.

‘My vis­its,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘are, like those of the an­gels—not that I com­pare my­self to an angel.’

‘No, sir,’ said Rosa.

‘Not by any means,’ as­sent­ed Mr. Grew­gious. ‘I mere­ly refer to my vis­its, which are few and far be­tween. The an­gels are, we know very well, up-stairs.’

Miss Twin­kle­ton looked round with a kind of stiff stare.

‘I refer, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, lay­ing his hand on Rosa’s, as the pos­si­bil­i­ty thrilled through his frame of his oth­er­wise seem­ing to take the awful lib­er­ty of call­ing Miss Twin­kle­ton my dear; ‘I refer to the other young ladies.’

Miss Twin­kle­ton re­sumed her writ­ing.

Mr. Grew­gious, with a sense of not hav­ing man­aged his open­ing point quite as neat­ly as he might have de­sired, smoothed his head from back to front as if he had just dived, and were press­ing the water out—this smooth­ing ac­tion, how­ev­er su­per­flu­ous, was ha­bit­u­al with him—and took a pock­et-book from his coat-pock­et, and a stump of black-lead pen­cil from his waist­coat-pock­et.

‘I made,’ he said, turn­ing the leaves: ‘I made a guid­ing mem­o­ran­dum or so—as I usu­al­ly do, for I have no con­ver­sa­tion­al pow­ers what­ev­er—to which I will, with your per­mis­sion, my dear, refer. “Well and happy.” Truly. You are well and happy, my dear? You look so.’

‘Yes, in­deed, sir,’ an­swered Rosa.

‘For which,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, with a bend of his head to­wards the cor­ner win­dow, ‘our warmest ac­knowl­edg­ments are due, and I am sure are ren­dered, to the ma­ter­nal kind­ness and the con­stant care and con­sid­er­a­tion of the lady whom I have now the hon­our to see be­fore me.’

This point, again, made but a lame de­par­ture from Mr. Grew­gious, and never got to its des­ti­na­tion; for, Miss Twin­kle­ton, feel­ing that the cour­te­sies re­quired her to be by this time quite out­side the con­ver­sa­tion, was bit­ing the end of her pen, and look­ing up­ward, as wait­ing for the de­scent of an idea from any mem­ber of the Ce­les­tial Nine who might have one to spare.

Mr. Grew­gious smoothed his smooth head again, and then made an­oth­er ref­er­ence to his pock­et-book; lin­ing out ‘well and happy,’ as dis­posed of.

‘“Pounds, shillings, and pence,” is my next note. A dry sub­ject for a young lady, but an im­por­tant sub­ject too. Life is pounds, shillings, and pence. Death is—’ A sud­den rec­ol­lec­tion of the death of her two par­ents seemed to stop him, and he said in a soft­er tone, and ev­i­dent­ly in­sert­ing the neg­a­tive as an af­ter-thought: ‘Death is not pounds, shillings, and pence.’

His voice was as hard and dry as him­self, and Fancy might have ground it straight, like him­self, into high-dried snuff. And yet, through the very lim­it­ed means of ex­pres­sion that he pos­sessed, he seemed to ex­press kind­ness. If Na­ture had but fin­ished him off, kind­ness might have been recog­nis­able in his face at this mo­ment. But if the notch­es in his fore­head wouldn’t fuse to­geth­er, and if his face would work and couldn’t play, what could he do, poor man!

‘“Pounds, shillings, and pence.” You find your al­lowance al­ways suf­fi­cient for your wants, my dear?’

Rosa want­ed for noth­ing, and there­fore it was ample.

‘And you are not in debt?’

Rosa laughed at the idea of being in debt. It seemed, to her in­ex­pe­ri­ence, a com­i­cal va­gary of the imag­i­na­tion. Mr. Grew­gious stretched his near sight to be sure that this was her view of the case. ‘Ah!’ he said, as com­ment, with a furtive glance to­wards Miss Twin­kle­ton, and lin­ing out pounds, shillings, and pence: ‘I spoke of hav­ing got among the an­gels! So I did!’

Rosa felt what his next mem­o­ran­dum would prove to be, and was blush­ing and fold­ing a crease in her dress with one em­bar­rassed hand, long be­fore he found it.

‘“Mar­riage.” Hem!’ Mr. Grew­gious car­ried his smooth­ing hand down over his eyes and nose, and even chin, be­fore draw­ing his chair a lit­tle near­er, and speak­ing a lit­tle more con­fi­den­tial­ly: ‘I now touch, my dear, upon the point that is the di­rect cause of my trou­bling you with the pre­sent visit. Oth­en­wise, being a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar man, I should not have in­trud­ed here. I am the last man to in­trude into a sphere for which I am so en­tire­ly un­fit­ted. I feel, on these premis­es, as if I was a bear—with the cramp—in a youth­ful Cotil­lon.’

His un­gain­li­ness gave him enough of the air of his sim­i­le to set Rosa off laugh­ing hearti­ly.

‘It strikes you in the same light,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, with per­fect calm­ness. ‘Just so. To re­turn to my mem­o­ran­dum. Mr. Edwin has been to and fro here, as was ar­ranged. You have men­tioned that, in your quar­ter­ly let­ters to me. And you like him, and he likes you.’

‘I like him very much, sir,’ re­joined Rosa.

‘So I said, my dear,’ re­turned her guardian, for whose ear the timid em­pha­sis was much too fine. ‘Good. And you cor­re­spond.’

‘We write to one an­oth­er,’ said Rosa, pout­ing, as she re­called their epis­to­lary dif­fer­ences.

‘Such is the mean­ing that I at­tach to the word “cor­re­spond” in this ap­pli­ca­tion, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Good. All goes well, time works on, and at this next Christ­mas-time it will be­come nec­es­sary, as a mat­ter of form, to give the ex­em­plary lady in the cor­ner win­dow, to whom we are so much in­debt­ed, busi­ness no­tice of your de­par­ture in the en­su­ing half-year. Your re­la­tions with her are far more than busi­ness re­la­tions, no doubt; but a residue of busi­ness re­mains in them, and busi­ness is busi­ness ever. I am a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar man,’ pro­ceed­ed Mr. Grew­gious, as if it sud­den­ly oc­curred to him to men­tion it, ‘and I am not used to give any­thing away. If, for these two rea­sons, some com­pe­tent Proxy would give you away, I should take it very kind­ly.’

Rosa in­ti­mat­ed, with her eyes on the ground, that she thought a sub­sti­tute might be found, if re­quired.

‘Sure­ly, sure­ly,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘For in­stance, the gen­tle­man who teach­es Danc­ing here—he would know how to do it with grace­ful pro­pri­ety. He would ad­vance and re­tire in a man­ner sat­is­fac­to­ry to the feel­ings of the of­fi­ci­at­ing cler­gy­man, and of your­self, and the bride­groom, and all par­ties con­cerned. I am—I am a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar man,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, as if he had made up his mind to screw it out at last: ‘and should only blun­der.’

Rosa sat still and silent. Per­haps her mind had not got quite so far as the cer­e­mo­ny yet, but was lag­ging on the way there.

‘Mem­o­ran­dum, “Will.” Now, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, re­fer­ring to his notes, dis­pos­ing of ‘Mar­riage’ with his pen­cil, and tak­ing a paper from his pock­et; ‘al­though. I have be­fore pos­sessed you with the con­tents of your fa­ther’s will, I think it right at this time to leave a cer­ti­fied copy of it in your hands. And al­though Mr. Edwin is also aware of its con­tents, I think it right at this time like­wise to place a cer­ti­fied copy of it in Mr. Jasper’s hand—’

‘Not in his own!’ asked Rosa, look­ing up quick­ly. ‘Can­not the copy go to Eddy him­self?’

‘Why, yes, my dear, if you par­tic­u­lar­ly wish it; but I spoke of Mr. Jasper as being his trustee.’

‘I do par­tic­u­lar­ly wish it, if you please,’ said Rosa, hur­ried­ly and earnest­ly; ‘I don’t like Mr. Jasper to come be­tween us, in any way.’

‘It is nat­u­ral, I sup­pose,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘that your young hus­band should be all in all. Yes. You ob­serve that I say, I sup­pose. The fact is, I am a par­tic­u­lar­ly Un­nat­u­ral man, and I don’t know from my own knowl­edge.’

Rosa looked at him with some won­der.

‘I mean,’ he ex­plained, ‘that young ways were never my ways. I was the only off­spring of par­ents far ad­vanced in life, and I half be­lieve I was born ad­vanced in life my­self. No per­son­al­i­ty is in­tend­ed to­wards the name you will so soon change, when I re­mark that while the gen­er­al growth of peo­ple seem to have come into ex­is­tence, buds, I seem to have come into ex­is­tence a chip. I was a chip—and a very dry one—when I first be­came aware of my­self. Re­spect­ing the other cer­ti­fied copy, your wish shall be com­plied with. Re­spect­ing your in­her­i­tance, I think you know all. It is an an­nu­ity of two hun­dred and fifty pounds. The sav­ings upon that an­nu­ity, and some other items to your cred­it, all duly car­ried to ac­count, with vouch­ers, will place you in pos­ses­sion of a lump-sum of money, rather ex­ceed­ing Sev­en­teen Hun­dred Pounds. I am em­pow­ered to ad­vance the cost of your prepa­ra­tions for your mar­riage out of that fund. All is told.’

‘Will you please tell me,’ said Rosa, tak­ing the paper with a pret­ti­ly knit­ted brow, but not open­ing it: ‘whether I am right in what I am going to say? I can un­der­stand what you tell me, so very much bet­ter than what I read in law-writ­ings. My poor papa and Eddy’s fa­ther made their agree­ment to­geth­er, as very dear and firm and fast friends, in order that we, too, might be very dear and firm and fast friends after them?’

‘Just so.’

‘For the last­ing good of both of us, and the last­ing hap­pi­ness of both of us?’

‘Just so.’

‘That we might be to one an­oth­er even much more than they had been to one an­oth­er?’

‘Just so.’

‘It was not bound upon Eddy, and it was not bound upon me, by any for­feit, in case—’

‘Don’t be ag­i­tat­ed, my dear. In the case that it brings tears into your af­fec­tion­ate eyes even to pic­ture to your­self—in the case of your not mar­ry­ing one an­oth­er—no, no for­fei­ture on ei­ther side. You would then have been my ward until you were of age. No worse would have be­fall­en you. Bad enough per­haps!’

‘And Eddy?’

‘He would have come into his part­ner­ship de­rived from his fa­ther, and into its ar­rears to his cred­it (if any), on at­tain­ing his ma­jor­i­ty, just as now.’

Rosa, with her per­plexed face and knit­ted brow, bit the cor­ner of her at­test­ed copy, as she sat with her head on one side, look­ing ab­stract­ed­ly on the floor, and smooth­ing it with her foot.

‘In short,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘this be­trothal is a wish, a sen­ti­ment, a friend­ly pro­ject, ten­der­ly ex­pressed on both sides. That it was strong­ly felt, and that there was a live­ly hope that it would pros­per, there can be no doubt. When you were both chil­dren, you began to be ac­cus­tomed to it, and it has pros­pered. But cir­cum­stances alter cases; and I made this visit to-day, part­ly, in­deed prin­ci­pal­ly, to dis­charge my­self of the duty of telling you, my dear, that two young peo­ple can only be be­trothed in mar­riage (ex­cept as a mat­ter of con­ve­nience, and there­fore mock­ery and mis­ery) of their own free will, their own at­tach­ment, and their own as­sur­ance (it may or it may not prove a mis­tak­en one, but we must take our chance of that), that they are suit­ed to each other, and will make each other happy. Is it to be sup­posed, for ex­am­ple, that if ei­ther of your fa­thers were liv­ing now, and had any mis­trust on that sub­ject, his mind would not be changed by the change of cir­cum­stances in­volved in the change of your years? Un­ten­able, un­rea­son­able, in­con­clu­sive, and pre­pos­ter­ous!’

Mr. Grew­gious said all this, as if he were read­ing it aloud; or, still more, as if he were re­peat­ing a les­son. So ex­pres­sion­less of any ap­proach to spon­tane­ity were his face and man­ner.

‘I have now, my dear,’ he added, blur­ring out ‘Will’ with his pen­cil, ‘dis­charged my­self of what is doubt­less a for­mal duty in this case, but still a duty in such a case. Mem­o­ran­dum, “Wish­es.” My dear, is there any wish of yours that I can fur­ther?’

Rosa shook her head, with an al­most plain­tive air of hes­i­ta­tion in want of help.

‘Is there any in­struc­tion that I can take from you with ref­er­ence to your af­fairs?’

‘I—I should like to set­tle them with Eddy first, if you please,’ said Rosa, plait­ing the crease in her dress.

‘Sure­ly, sure­ly,’ re­turned Mr. Grew­gious. ‘You two should be of one mind in all things. Is the young gen­tle­man ex­pect­ed short­ly?’

‘He has gone away only this morn­ing. He will be back at Christ­mas.’

‘Noth­ing could hap­pen bet­ter. You will, on his re­turn at Christ­mas, ar­range all mat­ters of de­tail with him; you will then com­mu­ni­cate with me; and I will dis­charge my­self (as a mere busi­ness ac­quain­tance) of my busi­ness re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to­wards the ac­com­plished lady in the cor­ner win­dow. They will ac­crue at that sea­son.’ Blur­ring pen­cil once again. ‘Mem­o­ran­dum, “Leave.” Yes. I will now, my dear, take my leave.’

‘Could I,’ said Rosa, ris­ing, as he jerked out of his chair in his un­gain­ly way: ‘could I ask you, most kind­ly to come to me at Christ­mas, if I had any­thing par­tic­u­lar to say to you?’

‘Why, cer­tain­ly, cer­tain­ly,’ he re­joined; ap­par­ent­ly—if such a word can be used of one who had no ap­par­ent lights or shad­ows about him—com­pli­ment­ed by the ques­tion. ‘As a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar man, I do not fit smooth­ly into the so­cial cir­cle, and con­se­quent­ly I have no other en­gage­ment at Christ­mas-time than to par­take, on the twen­ty-fifth, of a boiled turkey and cel­ery sauce with a—with a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar clerk I have the good for­tune to pos­sess, whose fa­ther, being a Nor­folk farmer, sends him up (the turkey up), as a pre­sent to me, from the neigh­bour­hood of Nor­wich. I should be quite proud of your wish­ing to see me, my dear. As a pro­fes­sion­al Re­ceiv­er of rents, so very few peo­ple do wish to see me, that the nov­el­ty would be brac­ing.’

For his ready ac­qui­es­cence, the grate­ful Rosa put her hands upon his shoul­ders, stood on tip­toe, and in­stant­ly kissed him.

‘Lord bless me!’ cried Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Thank you, my dear! The hon­our is al­most equal to the plea­sure. Miss Twin­kle­ton, madam, I have had a most sat­is­fac­to­ry con­ver­sa­tion with my ward, and I will now re­lease you from the in­cum­brance of my pres­ence.’

‘Nay, sir,’ re­joined Miss Twin­kle­ton, ris­ing with a gra­cious con­de­scen­sion: ‘say not in­cum­brance. Not so, by any means. I can­not per­mit you to say so.’

‘Thank you, madam. I have read in the news­pa­pers,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, stam­mer­ing a lit­tle, ‘that when a dis­tin­guished vis­i­tor (not that I am one: far from it) goes to a school (not that this is one: far from it), he asks for a hol­i­day, or some sort of grace. It being now the af­ter­noon in the—Col­lege—of which you are the em­i­nent head, the young ladies might gain noth­ing, ex­cept in name, by hav­ing the rest of the day al­lowed them. But if there is any young lady at all under a cloud, might I so­lic­it—’

‘Ah, Mr. Grew­gious, Mr. Grew­gious!’ cried Miss Twin­kle­ton, with a chaste­ly-ral­ly­ing fore­fin­ger. ‘O you gen­tle­men, you gen­tle­men! Fie for shame, that you are so hard upon us poor ma­ligned dis­ci­plinar­i­ans of our sex, for your sakes! But as Miss Fer­di­nand is at pre­sent weighed down by an in­cubus’—Miss Twin­kle­ton might have said a pen-and-ink-ubus of writ­ing out Mon­sieur La Fontaine—‘go to her, Rosa my dear, and tell her the penal­ty is re­mit­ted, in def­er­ence to the in­ter­ces­sion of your guardian, Mr. Grew­gious.’

Miss Twin­kle­ton here achieved a curt­sey, sug­ges­tive of mar­vels hap­pen­ing to her re­spect­ed legs, and which she came out of nobly, three yards be­hind her start­ing-point.

As he held it in­cum­bent upon him to call on Mr. Jasper be­fore leav­ing Clois­ter­ham, Mr. Grew­gious went to the gate­house, and climbed its postern stair. But Mr. Jasper’s door being closed, and pre­sent­ing on a slip of paper the word ‘Cathe­dral,’ the fact of its being ser­vice-time was borne into the mind of Mr. Grew­gious. So he de­scend­ed the stair again, and, cross­ing the Close, paused at the great west­ern fold­ing-door of the Cathe­dral, which stood open on the fine and bright, though short-lived, af­ter­noon, for the air­ing of the place.

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, peep­ing in, ‘it’s like look­ing down the throat of Old Time.’

Old Time heaved a mouldy sigh from tomb and arch and vault; and gloomy shad­ows began to deep­en in cor­ners; and damps began to rise from green patch­es of stone; and jew­els, cast upon the pave­ment of the nave from stained glass by the de­clin­ing sun, began to per­ish. With­in the grill-gate of the chan­cel, up the steps sur­mount­ed loom­ing­ly by the fast-dark­en­ing organ, white robes could be dimly seen, and one fee­ble voice, ris­ing and falling in a cracked, monotonous mut­ter, could at in­ter­vals be faint­ly heard. In the free outer air, the river, the green pas­tures, and the brown arable lands, the teem­ing hills and dales, were red­dened by the sun­set: while the dis­tant lit­tle win­dows in wind­mills and farm home­steads, shone, patch­es of bright beat­en gold. In the Cathe­dral, all be­came gray, murky, and sepul­chral, and the cracked monotonous mut­ter went on like a dying voice, until the organ and the choir burst forth, and drowned it in a sea of music. Then, the sea fell, and the dying voice made an­oth­er fee­ble ef­fort, and then the sea rose high, and beat its life out, and lashed the roof, and surged among the arch­es, and pierced the heights of the great tower; and then the sea was dry, and all was still.

Mr. Grew­gious had by that time walked to the chan­cel-steps, where he met the liv­ing wa­ters com­ing out.

‘Noth­ing is the mat­ter?’ Thus Jasper ac­cost­ed him, rather quick­ly. ‘You have not been sent for?’

‘Not at all, not at all. I came down of my own ac­cord. I have been to my pret­ty ward’s, and am now home­ward bound again.’

‘You found her thriv­ing?’

‘Bloom­ing in­deed. Most bloom­ing. I mere­ly came to tell her, se­ri­ous­ly, what a be­trothal by de­ceased par­ents is.’

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

Mr. Grew­gious no­ticed the white­ness of the lips that asked the ques­tion, and put it down to the chill­ing ac­count of the Cathe­dral.

‘I mere­ly came to tell her that it could not be con­sid­ered bind­ing, against any such rea­son for its dis­so­lu­tion as a want of af­fec­tion, or want of dis­po­si­tion to carry it into ef­fect, on the side of ei­ther party.’

‘May I ask, had you any es­pe­cial rea­son for telling her that?’

Mr. Grew­gious an­swered some­what sharply: ‘The es­pe­cial rea­son of doing my duty, sir. Sim­ply that.’ Then he added: ‘Come, Mr. Jasper; I know your af­fec­tion for your nephew, and that you are quick to feel on his be­half. I as­sure you that this im­plies not the least doubt of, or dis­re­spect to, your nephew.’

‘You could not,’ re­turned Jasper, with a friend­ly pres­sure of his arm, as they walked on side by side, ‘speak more hand­some­ly.’

Mr. Grew­gious pulled off his hat to smooth his head, and, hav­ing smoothed it, nod­ded it con­tent­ed­ly, and put his hat on again.

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

‘And you will win your wager, if you do,’ re­tort­ed Mr. Grew­gious. ‘We should allow some mar­gin for lit­tle maid­en­ly del­i­ca­cies in a young moth­er­less crea­ture, under such cir­cum­stances, I sup­pose; it is not in my line; what do you think?’

‘There can be no doubt of it.’

‘I am glad you say so. Be­cause,’ pro­ceed­ed Mr. Grew­gious, who had all this time very know­ing­ly felt his way round to ac­tion on his re­mem­brance of what she had said of Jasper him­self: ‘be­cause she seems to have some lit­tle del­i­cate in­stinct that all pre­lim­i­nary ar­range­ments had best be made be­tween Mr. Edwin Drood and her­self, don’t you see? She don’t want us, don’t you know?’

Jasper touched him­self on the breast, and said, some­what in­dis­tinct­ly: ‘You mean me.’

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

‘So, you set­tled with her that you would come back at Christ­mas?’ ob­served Jasper. ‘I see! Mr. Grew­gious, as you quite fair­ly said just now, there is such an ex­cep­tion­al at­tach­ment be­tween my nephew and me, that I am more sen­si­tive for the dear, for­tu­nate, happy, happy fel­low than for my­self. But it is only right that the young lady should be con­sid­ered, as you have point­ed out, and that I should ac­cept my cue from you. I ac­cept it. I un­der­stand that at Christ­mas they will com­plete their prepa­ra­tions for May, and that their mar­riage will be put in final train by them­selves, and that noth­ing will re­main for us but to put our­selves in train also, and have ev­ery­thing ready for our for­mal re­lease from our trusts, on Edwin’s birth­day.’

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

‘God save them both!’ cried Jasper.

‘I said, bless them,’ re­marked the for­mer, look­ing back over his shoul­der.

‘I said, save them,’ re­turned the lat­ter. ‘Is there any dif­fer­ence?’


CHAP­TER X
SMOOTH­ING THE WAY

It has been often enough re­marked that women have a cu­ri­ous power of di­vin­ing the char­ac­ters of men, which would seem to be in­nate and in­stinc­tive; see­ing that it is ar­rived at through no pa­tient pro­cess of rea­son­ing, that it can give no sat­is­fac­to­ry or suf­fi­cient ac­count of it­self, and that it pro­nounces in the most con­fi­dent man­ner even against ac­cu­mu­lat­ed ob­ser­va­tion on the part of the other sex. But it has not been quite so often re­marked that this power (fal­li­ble, like every other human at­tribute) is for the most part ab­so­lute­ly in­ca­pable of self-re­vi­sion; and that when it has de­liv­ered an ad­verse opin­ion which by all human lights is sub­se­quent­ly proved to have failed, it is undis­tin­guish­able from prej­u­dice, in re­spect of its de­ter­mi­na­tion not to be cor­rect­ed. Nay, the very pos­si­bil­i­ty of con­tra­dic­tion or dis­proof, how­ev­er re­mote, com­mu­ni­cates to this fem­i­nine judg­ment from the first, in nine cases out of ten, the weak­ness at­ten­dant on the tes­ti­mo­ny of an in­ter­est­ed wit­ness; so per­son­al­ly and strong­ly does the fair di­vin­er con­nect her­self with her div­ina­tion.

‘Now, don’t you think, Ma dear,’ said the Minor Canon to his moth­er one day as she sat at her knit­ting in his lit­tle book-room, ‘that you are rather hard on Mr. Neville?’

‘No, I do not, Sept,’ re­turned the old lady.

‘Let us dis­cuss it, Ma.’

‘I have no ob­jec­tion to dis­cuss it, Sept. I trust, my dear, I am al­ways open to dis­cus­sion.’ There was a vi­bra­tion in the old lady’s cap, as though she in­ter­nal­ly added: ‘and I should like to see the dis­cus­sion that would change my mind!’

‘Very good, Ma,’ said her con­cil­ia­to­ry son. ‘There is noth­ing like being open to dis­cus­sion.’

‘I hope not, my dear,’ re­turned the old lady, ev­i­dent­ly shut to it.

‘Well! Mr. Neville, on that un­for­tu­nate oc­ca­sion, com­mits him­self under provo­ca­tion.’

‘And under mulled wine,’ added the old lady.

‘I must admit the wine. Though I be­lieve the two young men were much alike in that re­gard.’

‘I don’t,’ said the old lady.

‘Why not, Ma?’

‘Be­cause I don’t,’ said the old lady. ‘Still, I am quite open to dis­cus­sion.’

‘But, my dear Ma, I can­not see how we are to dis­cuss, if you take that line.’

‘Blame Mr. Neville for it, Sept, and not me,’ said the old lady, with state­ly sever­i­ty.

‘My dear Ma! why Mr. Neville?’

‘Be­cause,’ said Mrs. Crisparkle, re­tir­ing on first prin­ci­ples, ‘he came home in­tox­i­cat­ed, and did great dis­cred­it to this house, and showed great dis­re­spect to this fam­i­ly.’

‘That is not to be de­nied, Ma. He was then, and he is now, very sorry for it.’

‘But for Mr. Jasper’s well-bred con­sid­er­a­tion in com­ing up to me, next day, after ser­vice, in the Nave it­self, with his gown still on, and ex­press­ing his hope that I had not been great­ly alarmed or had my rest vi­o­lent­ly bro­ken, I be­lieve I might never have heard of that dis­grace­ful trans­ac­tion,’ said the old lady.

‘To be can­did, Ma, I think I should have kept it from you if I could: though I had not de­cid­ed­ly made up my mind. I was fol­low­ing Jasper out, to con­fer with him on the sub­ject, and to con­sid­er the ex­pe­di­en­cy of his and my joint­ly hush­ing the thing up on all ac­counts, when I found him speak­ing to you. Then it was too late.’

‘Too late, in­deed, Sept. He was still as pale as gen­tle­man­ly ashes at what had taken place in his rooms overnight.’

‘If I had kept it from you, Ma, you may be sure it would have been for your peace and quiet, and for the good of the young men, and in my best dis­charge of my duty ac­cord­ing to my lights.’

The old lady im­me­di­ate­ly walked across the room and kissed him: say­ing, ‘Of course, my dear Sept, I am sure of that.’

‘How­ev­er, it be­came the town-talk,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, rub­bing his ear, as his moth­er re­sumed her seat, and her knit­ting, ‘and passed out of my power.’

‘And I said then, Sept,’ re­turned the old lady, ‘that I thought ill of Mr. Neville. And I say now, that I think ill of Mr. Neville. And I said then, and I say now, that I hope Mr. Neville may come to good, but I don’t be­lieve he will.’ Here the cap vi­brat­ed again con­sid­er­ably.

‘I am sorry to hear you say so, Ma—’

‘I am sorry to say so, my dear,’ in­ter­posed the old lady, knit­ting on firm­ly, ‘but I can’t help it.’

‘—For,’ pur­sued the Minor Canon, ‘it is un­de­ni­able that Mr. Neville is ex­ceed­ing­ly in­dus­tri­ous and at­ten­tive, and that he im­proves apace, and that he has—I hope I may say—an at­tach­ment to me.’

‘There is no merit in the last ar­ti­cle, my dear,’ said the old lady, quick­ly; ‘and if he says there is, I think the worse of him for the boast.’

‘But, my dear Ma, he never said there was.’

‘Per­haps not,’ re­turned the old lady; ‘still, I don’t see that it great­ly sig­ni­fies.’

There was no im­pa­tience in the pleas­ant look with which Mr. Crisparkle con­tem­plat­ed the pret­ty old piece of china as it knit­ted; but there was, cer­tain­ly, a hu­mor­ous sense of its not being a piece of china to argue with very close­ly.

‘Be­sides, Sept, ask your­self what he would be with­out his sis­ter. You know what an in­flu­ence she has over him; you know what a ca­pac­i­ty she has; you know that what­ev­er he reads with you, he reads with her. Give her her fair share of your praise, and how much do you leave for him?’

At these words Mr. Crisparkle fell into a lit­tle rever­ie, in which he thought of sev­er­al things. He thought of the times he had seen the broth­er and sis­ter to­geth­er in deep con­verse over one of his own old col­lege books; now, in the rimy morn­ings, when he made those sharp­en­ing pil­grim­ages to Clois­ter­ham Weir; now, in the som­bre evenings, when he faced the wind at sun­set, hav­ing climbed his favourite out­look, a beetling frag­ment of monastery ruin; and the two stu­dious fig­ures passed below him along the mar­gin of the river, in which the town fires and lights al­ready shone, mak­ing the land­scape bleak­er. He thought how the con­scious­ness had stolen upon him that in teach­ing one, he was teach­ing two; and how he had al­most in­sen­si­bly adapt­ed his ex­pla­na­tions to both minds—that with which his own was daily in con­tact, and that which he only ap­proached through it. He thought of the gos­sip that had reached him from the Nuns’ House, to the ef­fect that He­le­na, whom he had mis­trust­ed as so proud and fierce, sub­mit­ted her­self to the fairy-bride (as he called her), and learnt from her what she knew. He thought of the pic­turesque al­liance be­tween those two, ex­ter­nal­ly so very dif­fer­ent. He thought—per­haps most of all—could it be that these things were yet but so many weeks old, and had be­come an in­te­gral part of his life?

As, when­ev­er the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus fell a-mus­ing, his good moth­er took it to be an in­fal­li­ble sign that he ‘want­ed sup­port,’ the bloom­ing old lady made all haste to the din­ing-room clos­et, to pro­duce from it the sup­port em­bod­ied in a glass of Con­stan­tia and a home-made bis­cuit. It was a most won­der­ful clos­et, wor­thy of Clois­ter­ham and of Minor Canon Cor­ner. Above it, a por­trait of Han­del in a flow­ing wig beamed down at the spec­ta­tor, with a know­ing air of being up to the con­tents of the clos­et, and a mu­si­cal air of in­tend­ing to com­bine all its har­monies in one de­li­cious fugue. No com­mon clos­et with a vul­gar door on hinges, open­able all at once, and leav­ing noth­ing to be dis­closed by de­grees, this rare clos­et had a lock in mid-air, where two per­pen­dic­u­lar slides met; the one falling down, and the other push­ing up. The upper slide, on being pulled down (leav­ing the lower a dou­ble mys­tery), re­vealed deep shelves of pick­le-jars, jam-pots, tin can­is­ters, spice-box­es, and agree­ably out­landish ves­sels of blue and white, the lus­cious lodg­ings of pre­served tamarinds and gin­ger. Every benev­o­lent in­hab­i­tant of this re­treat had his name in­scribed upon his stom­ach. The pick­les, in a uni­form of rich brown dou­ble-breast­ed but­toned coat, and yel­low or som­bre drab con­tin­u­a­tions, an­nounced their port­ly forms, in print­ed cap­i­tals, as Wal­nut, Gherkin, Onion, Cab­bage, Cauliflow­er, Mixed, and other mem­bers of that noble fam­i­ly. The jams, as being of a less mas­cu­line tem­per­a­ment, and as wear­ing curl­pa­pers, an­nounced them­selves in fem­i­nine calig­ra­phy, like a soft whis­per, to be Rasp­ber­ry, Goose­ber­ry, Apri­cot, Plum, Dam­son, Apple, and Peach. The scene clos­ing on these charm­ers, and the lower slide as­cend­ing, or­anges were re­vealed, at­tend­ed by a mighty japanned sug­ar-box, to tem­per their acer­bity if un­ripe. Home-made bis­cuits wait­ed at the Court of these Pow­ers, ac­com­pa­nied by a good­ly frag­ment of plum-cake, and var­i­ous slen­der ladies’ fin­gers, to be dipped into sweet wine and kissed. Low­est of all, a com­pact lead­en-vault en­shrined the sweet wine and a stock of cor­dials: whence is­sued whis­pers of Seville Or­ange, Lemon, Al­mond, and Car­away-seed. There was a crown­ing air upon this clos­et of clos­ets, of hav­ing been for ages hummed through by the Cathe­dral bell and organ, until those ven­er­a­ble bees had made sub­li­mat­ed honey of ev­ery­thing in store; and it was al­ways ob­served that every dip­per among the shelves (deep, as has been no­ticed, and swal­low­ing up head, shoul­ders, and el­bows) came forth again mel­low-faced, and seem­ing to have un­der­gone a sac­cha­rine trans­fig­u­ra­tion.

The Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus yield­ed him­self up quite as will­ing a vic­tim to a nau­seous medic­i­nal herb-clos­et, also presid­ed over by the china shep­herdess, as to this glo­ri­ous cup­board. To what amaz­ing in­fu­sions of gen­tian, pep­per­mint, gilliflow­er, sage, pars­ley, thyme, rue, rose­mary, and dan­de­lion, did his coura­geous stom­ach sub­mit it­self! In what won­der­ful wrap­pers, en­clos­ing lay­ers of dried leaves, would he swathe his rosy and con­tent­ed face, if his moth­er sus­pect­ed him of a toothache! What botan­i­cal blotch­es would he cheer­ful­ly stick upon his cheek, or fore­head, if the dear old lady con­vict­ed him of an im­per­cep­ti­ble pim­ple there! Into this herba­ceous pen­i­ten­tiary, sit­u­at­ed on an upper stair­case-land­ing: a low and nar­row white­washed cell, where bunch­es of dried leaves hung from rusty hooks in the ceil­ing, and were spread out upon shelves, in com­pa­ny with por­ten­tous bot­tles: would the Rev­erend Sep­ti­mus sub­mis­sive­ly be led, like the high­ly pop­u­lar lamb who has so long and un­re­sist­ing­ly been led to the slaugh­ter, and there would he, un­like that lamb, bore no­body but him­self. Not even doing that much, so that the old lady were busy and pleased, he would qui­et­ly swal­low what was given him, mere­ly tak­ing a cor­rec­tive dip of hands and face into the great bowl of dried rose-leaves, and into the other great bowl of dried laven­der, and then would go out, as con­fi­dent in the sweet­en­ing pow­ers of Clois­ter­ham Weir and a whole­some mind, as Lady Mac­beth was hope­less of those of all the seas that roll.

In the pre­sent in­stance the good Minor Canon took his glass of Con­stan­tia with an ex­cel­lent grace, and, so sup­port­ed to his moth­er’s sat­is­fac­tion, ap­plied him­self to the re­main­ing du­ties of the day. In their or­der­ly and punc­tu­al progress they brought round Ves­per Ser­vice and twi­light. The Cathe­dral being very cold, he set off for a brisk trot after ser­vice; the trot to end in a charge at his favourite frag­ment of ruin, which was to be car­ried by storm, with­out a pause for breath.

He car­ried it in a mas­ter­ly man­ner, and, not breathed even then, stood look­ing down upon the river. The river at Clois­ter­ham is suf­fi­cient­ly near the sea to throw up of­ten­times a quan­ti­ty of sea­weed. An un­usu­al quan­ti­ty had come in with the last tide, and this, and the con­fu­sion of the water, and the rest­less dip­ping and flap­ping of the noisy gulls, and an angry light out sea­ward be­yond the brown-sailed barges that were turn­ing black, fore­shad­owed a stormy night. In his mind he was con­trast­ing the wild and noisy sea with the quiet har­bour of Minor Canon Cor­ner, when He­le­na and Neville Land­less passed below him. He had had the two to­geth­er in his thoughts all day, and at once climbed down to speak to them to­geth­er. The foot­ing was rough in an un­cer­tain light for any tread save that of a good climber; but the Minor Canon was as good a climber as most men, and stood be­side them be­fore many good climbers would have been half-way down.

‘A wild evening, Miss Land­less! Do you not find your usual walk with your broth­er too ex­posed and cold for the time of year? Or at all events, when the sun is down, and the weath­er is driv­ing in from the sea?’

He­le­na thought not. It was their favourite walk. It was very re­tired.

‘It is very re­tired,’ as­sent­ed Mr. Crisparkle, lay­ing hold of his op­por­tu­ni­ty straight­way, and walk­ing on with them. ‘It is a place of all oth­ers where one can speak with­out in­ter­rup­tion, as I wish to do. Mr. Neville, I be­lieve you tell your sis­ter ev­ery­thing that pass­es be­tween us?’

‘Ev­ery­thing, sir.’

‘Con­se­quent­ly,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘your sis­ter is aware that I have re­peat­ed­ly urged you to make some kind of apol­o­gy for that un­for­tu­nate oc­cur­rence which be­fell on the night of your ar­rival here.’ In say­ing it he looked to her, and not to him; there­fore it was she, and not he, who replied:

‘Yes.’

‘I call it un­for­tu­nate, Miss He­le­na,’ re­sumed Mr. Crisparkle, ‘foras­much as it cer­tain­ly has en­gen­dered a prej­u­dice against Neville. There is a no­tion about, that he is a dan­ger­ous­ly pas­sion­ate fel­low, of an un­con­trol­lable and fu­ri­ous tem­per: he is re­al­ly avoid­ed as such.’

‘I have no doubt he is, poor fel­low,’ said He­le­na, with a look of proud com­pas­sion at her broth­er, ex­press­ing a deep sense of his being un­gen­er­ous­ly treat­ed. ‘I should be quite sure of it, from your say­ing so; but what you tell me is con­firmed by sup­pressed hints and ref­er­ences that I meet with every day.’

‘Now,’ Mr. Crisparkle again re­sumed, in a tone of mild though firm per­sua­sion, ‘is not this to be re­gret­ted, and ought it not to be amend­ed? These are early days of Neville’s in Clois­ter­ham, and I have no fear of his out­liv­ing such a prej­u­dice, and prov­ing him­self to have been mis­un­der­stood. But how much wiser to take ac­tion at once, than to trust to un­cer­tain time! Be­sides, apart from its being politic, it is right. For there can be no ques­tion that Neville was wrong.’

‘He was pro­voked,’ He­le­na sub­mit­ted.

‘He was the as­sailant,’ Mr. Crisparkle sub­mit­ted.

They walked on in si­lence, until He­le­na raised her eyes to the Minor Canon’s face, and said, al­most re­proach­ful­ly: ‘O Mr. Crisparkle, would you have Neville throw him­self at young Drood’s feet, or at Mr. Jasper’s, who ma­ligns him every day? In your heart you can­not mean it. From your heart you could not do it, if his case were yours.’

‘I have rep­re­sent­ed to Mr. Crisparkle, He­le­na,’ said Neville, with a glance of def­er­ence to­wards his tutor, ‘that if I could do it from my heart, I would. But I can­not, and I re­volt from the pre­tence. You for­get how­ev­er, that to put the case to Mr. Crisparkle as his own, is to sup­pose to have done what I did.’

‘I ask his par­don,’ said He­le­na.

‘You see,’ re­marked Mr. Crisparkle, again lay­ing hold of his op­por­tu­ni­ty, though with a mod­er­ate and del­i­cate touch, ‘you both in­stinc­tive­ly ac­knowl­edge that Neville did wrong. Then why stop short, and not oth­er­wise ac­knowl­edge it?’

‘Is there no dif­fer­ence,’ asked He­le­na, with a lit­tle fal­ter­ing in her man­ner; ‘be­tween sub­mis­sion to a gen­er­ous spir­it, and sub­mis­sion to a base or triv­ial one?’

Be­fore the wor­thy Minor Canon was quite ready with his ar­gu­ment in ref­er­ence to this nice dis­tinc­tion, Neville struck in:

‘Help me to clear my­self with Mr. Crisparkle, He­le­na. Help me to con­vince him that I can­not be the first to make con­ces­sions with­out mock­ery and false­hood. My na­ture must be changed be­fore I can do so, and it is not changed. I am sen­si­ble of in­ex­press­ible af­front, and de­lib­er­ate ag­gra­va­tion of in­ex­press­ible af­front, and I am angry. The plain truth is, I am still as angry when I re­call that night as I was that night.’

‘Neville,’ hint­ed the Minor Canon, with a steady coun­te­nance, ‘you have re­peat­ed that for­mer ac­tion of your hands, which I so much dis­like.’

‘I am sorry for it, sir, but it was in­vol­un­tary. I con­fessed that I was still as angry.’

‘And I con­fess,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘that I hoped for bet­ter things.’

‘I am sorry to dis­ap­point you, sir, but it would be far worse to de­ceive you, and I should de­ceive you gross­ly if I pre­tend­ed that you had soft­ened me in this re­spect. The time may come when your pow­er­ful in­flu­ence will do even that with the dif­fi­cult pupil whose an­tecedents you know; but it has not come yet. Is this so, and in spite of my strug­gles against my­self, He­le­na?’

She, whose dark eyes were watch­ing the ef­fect of what he said on Mr. Crisparkle’s face, replied—to Mr. Crisparkle, not to him: ‘It is so.’ After a short pause, she an­swered the slight­est look of in­quiry con­ceiv­able, in her broth­er’s eyes, with as slight an af­fir­ma­tive bend of her own head; and he went on:

‘I have never yet had the courage to say to you, sir, what in full open­ness I ought to have said when you first talked with me on this sub­ject. It is not easy to say, and I have been with­held by a fear of its seem­ing ridicu­lous, which is very strong upon me down to this last mo­ment, and might, but for my sis­ter, pre­vent my being quite open with you even now.—I ad­mire Miss Bud, sir, so very much, that I can­not bear her being treat­ed with con­ceit or in­dif­fer­ence; and even if I did not feel that I had an in­jury against young Drood on my own ac­count, I should feel that I had an in­jury against him on hers.’

Mr. Crisparkle, in utter amaze­ment, looked at He­le­na for cor­rob­o­ra­tion, and met in her ex­pres­sive face full cor­rob­o­ra­tion, and a plea for ad­vice.

‘The young lady of whom you speak is, as you know, Mr. Neville, short­ly to be mar­ried,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, grave­ly; ‘there­fore your ad­mi­ra­tion, if it be of that spe­cial na­ture which you seem to in­di­cate, is out­ra­geous­ly mis­placed. More­over, it is mon­strous that you should take upon your­self to be the young lady’s cham­pi­on against her cho­sen hus­band. Be­sides, you have seen them only once. The young lady has be­come your sis­ter’s friend; and I won­der that your sis­ter, even on her be­half, has not checked you in this ir­ra­tional and cul­pa­ble fancy.’

‘She has tried, sir, but use­less­ly. Hus­band or no hus­band, that fel­low is in­ca­pable of the feel­ing with which I am in­spired to­wards the beau­ti­ful young crea­ture whom he treats like a doll. I say he is as in­ca­pable of it, as he is un­wor­thy of her. I say she is sac­ri­ficed in being be­stowed upon him. I say that I love her, and de­spise and hate him!’ This with a face so flushed, and a ges­ture so vi­o­lent, that his sis­ter crossed to his side, and caught his arm, re­mon­strat­ing, ‘Neville, Neville!’

Thus re­called to him­self, he quick­ly be­came sen­si­ble of hav­ing lost the guard he had set upon his pas­sion­ate ten­den­cy, and cov­ered his face with his hand, as one re­pen­tant and wretched.

Mr. Crisparkle, watch­ing him at­ten­tive­ly, and at the same time med­i­tat­ing how to pro­ceed, walked on for some paces in si­lence. Then he spoke:

‘Mr. Neville, Mr. Neville, I am sore­ly grieved to see in you more traces of a char­ac­ter as sullen, angry, and wild, as the night now clos­ing in. They are of too se­ri­ous an as­pect to leave me the re­source of treat­ing the in­fat­u­a­tion you have dis­closed, as un­de­serv­ing se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. I give it very se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion, and I speak to you ac­cord­ing­ly. This feud be­tween you and young Drood must not go on. I can­not per­mit it to go on any longer, know­ing what I now know from you, and you liv­ing under my roof. What­ev­er prej­u­diced and unau­tho­rised con­struc­tions your blind and en­vi­ous wrath may put upon his char­ac­ter, it is a frank, good-na­tured char­ac­ter. I know I can trust to it for that. Now, pray ob­serve what I am about to say. On re­flec­tion, and on your sis­ter’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion, I am will­ing to admit that, in mak­ing peace with young Drood, you have a right to be met half-way. I will en­gage that you shall be, and even that young Drood shall make the first ad­vance. This con­di­tion ful­filled, you will pledge me the hon­our of a Chris­tian gen­tle­man that the quar­rel is for ever at an end on your side. What may be in your heart when you give him your hand, can only be known to the Searcher of all hearts; but it will never go well with you, if there be any treach­ery there. So far, as to that; next as to what I must again speak of as your in­fat­u­a­tion. I un­der­stand it to have been con­fid­ed to me, and to be known to no other per­son save your sis­ter and your­self. Do I un­der­stand aright?’

He­le­na an­swered in a low voice: ‘It is only known to us three who are here to­geth­er.’

‘It is not at all known to the young lady, your friend?’

‘On my soul, no!’

‘I re­quire you, then, to give me your sim­i­lar and solemn pledge, Mr. Neville, that it shall re­main the se­cret it is, and that you will take no other ac­tion what­so­ev­er upon it than en­deav­our­ing (and that most earnest­ly) to erase it from your mind. I will not tell you that it will soon pass; I will not tell you that it is the fancy of the mo­ment; I will not tell you that such caprices have their rise and fall among the young and ar­dent every hour; I will leave you undis­turbed in the be­lief that it has few par­al­lels or none, that it will abide with you a long time, and that it will be very dif­fi­cult to con­quer. So much the more weight shall I at­tach to the pledge I re­quire from you, when it is un­re­served­ly given.’

The young man twice or thrice es­sayed to speak, but failed.

‘Let me leave you with your sis­ter, whom it is time you took home,’ said Mr. Crisparkle. ‘You will find me alone in my room by-and-by.’

‘Pray do not leave us yet,’ He­le­na im­plored him. ‘An­oth­er minute.’

‘I should not,’ said Neville, press­ing his hand upon his face, ‘have need­ed so much as an­oth­er minute, if you had been less pa­tient with me, Mr. Crisparkle, less con­sid­er­ate of me, and less un­pre­tend­ing­ly good and true. O, if in my child­hood I had known such a guide!’

‘Fol­low your guide now, Neville,’ mur­mured He­le­na, ‘and fol­low him to Heav­en!’

There was that in her tone which broke the good Minor Canon’s voice, or it would have re­pu­di­at­ed her ex­al­ta­tion of him. As it was, he laid a fin­ger on his lips, and looked to­wards her broth­er.

‘To say that I give both pledges, Mr. Crisparkle, out of my in­ner­most heart, and to say that there is no treach­ery in it, is to say noth­ing!’ Thus Neville, great­ly moved. ‘I beg your for­give­ness for my mis­er­able lapse into a burst of pas­sion.’

‘Not mine, Neville, not mine. You know with whom for­give­ness lies, as the high­est at­tribute con­ceiv­able. Miss He­le­na, you and your broth­er are twin chil­dren. You came into this world with the same dis­po­si­tions, and you passed your younger days to­geth­er sur­round­ed by the same ad­verse cir­cum­stances. What you have over­come in your­self, can you not over­come in him? You see the rock that lies in his course. Who but you can keep him clear of it?’

‘Who but you, sir?’ replied He­le­na. ‘What is my in­flu­ence, or my weak wis­dom, com­pared with yours!’

‘You have the wis­dom of Love,’ re­turned the Minor Canon, ‘and it was the high­est wis­dom ever known upon this earth, re­mem­ber. As to mine—but the less said of that com­mon­place com­mod­i­ty the bet­ter. Good night!’

She took the hand he of­fered her, and grate­ful­ly and al­most rev­er­ent­ly raised it to her lips.

‘Tut!’ said the Minor Canon soft­ly, ‘I am much over­paid!’ and turned away.

Re­trac­ing his steps to­wards the Cathe­dral Close, he tried, as he went along in the dark, to think out the best means of bring­ing to pass what he had promised to ef­fect, and what must some­how be done. ‘I shall prob­a­bly be asked to marry them,’ he re­flect­ed, ‘and I would they were mar­ried and gone! But this press­es first.’

He de­bat­ed prin­ci­pal­ly whether he should write to young Drood, or whether he should speak to Jasper. The con­scious­ness of being pop­u­lar with the whole Cathe­dral es­tab­lish­ment in­clined him to the lat­ter course, and the well-timed sight of the light­ed gate­house de­cid­ed him to take it. ‘I will strike while the iron is hot,’ he said, ‘and see him now.’

Jasper was lying asleep on a couch be­fore the fire, when, hav­ing as­cend­ed the postern-stair, and re­ceived no an­swer to his knock at the door, Mr. Crisparkle gen­tly turned the han­dle and looked in. Long af­ter­wards he had cause to re­mem­ber how Jasper sprang from the couch in a deliri­ous state be­tween sleep­ing and wak­ing, and cry­ing out: ‘What is the mat­ter? Who did it?’

‘It is only I, Jasper. I am sorry to have dis­turbed you.’

The glare of his eyes set­tled down into a look of recog­ni­tion, and he moved a chair or two, to make a way to the fire­side.

‘I was dream­ing at a great rate, and am glad to be dis­turbed from an in­di­ges­tive af­ter-din­ner sleep. Not to men­tion that you are al­ways wel­come.’

‘Thank you. I am not con­fi­dent,’ re­turned Mr. Crisparkle, as he sat him­self down in the easy-chair placed for him, ‘that my sub­ject will at first sight be quite as wel­come as my­self; but I am a min­is­ter of peace, and I pur­sue my sub­ject in the in­ter­ests of peace. In a word, Jasper, I want to es­tab­lish peace be­tween these two young fel­lows.’

A very per­plexed ex­pres­sion took hold of Mr. Jasper’s face; a very per­plex­ing ex­pres­sion too, for Mr. Crisparkle could make noth­ing of it.

‘How?’ was Jasper’s in­quiry, in a low and slow voice, after a si­lence.

‘For the “How” I come to you. I want to ask you to do me the great favour and ser­vice of in­ter­pos­ing with your nephew (I have al­ready in­ter­posed with Mr. Neville), and get­ting him to write you a short note, in his live­ly way, say­ing that he is will­ing to shake hands. I know what a good-na­tured fel­low he is, and what in­flu­ence you have with him. And with­out in the least de­fend­ing Mr. Neville, we must all admit that he was bit­ter­ly stung.’

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

‘I know that you are not pre­pos­sessed in Mr. Neville’s favour,’ the Minor Canon was going on, when Jasper stopped him:

‘You have cause to say so. I am not, in­deed.’

‘Un­doubt­ed­ly; and I admit his lamentable vi­o­lence of tem­per, though I hope he and I will get the bet­ter of it be­tween us. But I have ex­act­ed a very solemn promise from him as to his fu­ture de­meanour to­wards your nephew, if you do kind­ly in­ter­pose; and I am sure he will keep it.’

‘You are al­ways re­spon­si­ble and trust­wor­thy, Mr. Crisparkle. Do you re­al­ly feel sure that you can an­swer for him so con­fi­dent­ly?’

‘I do.’

The per­plexed and per­plex­ing look van­ished.

‘Then you re­lieve my mind of a great dread, and a heavy weight,’ said Jasper; ‘I will do it.’

Mr. Crisparkle, de­light­ed by the swift­ness and com­plete­ness of his suc­cess, ac­knowl­edged it in the hand­somest terms.

‘I will do it,’ re­peat­ed Jasper, ‘for the com­fort of hav­ing your guar­an­tee against my vague and un­found­ed fears. You will laugh—but do you keep a Diary?’

‘A line for a day; not more.’

‘A line for a day would be quite as much as my un­event­ful life would need, Heav­en knows,’ said Jasper, tak­ing a book from a desk, ‘but that my Diary is, in fact, a Diary of Ned’s life too. You will laugh at this entry; you will guess when it was made:

‘“Past mid­night.—After what I have just now seen, I have a mor­bid dread upon me of some hor­ri­ble con­se­quences re­sult­ing to my dear boy, that I can­not rea­son with or in any way con­tend against. All my ef­forts are vain. The de­mo­ni­a­cal pas­sion of this Neville Land­less, his strength in his fury, and his sav­age rage for the de­struc­tion of its ob­ject, appal me. So pro­found is the im­pres­sion, that twice since I have gone into my dear boy’s room, to as­sure my­self of his sleep­ing safe­ly, and not lying dead in his blood.”

‘Here is an­oth­er entry next morn­ing:

‘“Ned up and away. Light-heart­ed and un­sus­pi­cious as ever. He laughed when I cau­tioned him, and said he was as good a man as Neville Land­less any day. I told him that might be, but he was not as bad a man. He con­tin­ued to make light of it, but I trav­elled with him as far as I could, and left him most un­will­ing­ly. I am un­able to shake off these dark in­tan­gi­ble pre­sen­ti­ments of evil—if feel­ings found­ed upon star­ing facts are to be so called.”

‘Again and again,’ said Jasper, in con­clu­sion, twirling the leaves of the book be­fore putting it by, ‘I have re­lapsed into these moods, as other en­tries show. But I have now your as­sur­ance at my back, and shall put it in my book, and make it an an­ti­dote to my black hu­mours.’

‘Such an an­ti­dote, I hope,’ re­turned Mr. Crisparkle, ‘as will in­duce you be­fore long to con­sign the black hu­mours to the flames. I ought to be the last to find any fault with you this evening, when you have met my wish­es so freely; but I must say, Jasper, that your de­vo­tion to your nephew has made you ex­ag­ger­a­tive here.’

‘You are my wit­ness,’ said Jasper, shrug­ging his shoul­ders, ‘what my state of mind hon­est­ly was, that night, be­fore I sat down to write, and in what words I ex­pressed it. You re­mem­ber ob­ject­ing to a word I used, as being too strong? It was a stronger word than any in my Diary.’

‘Well, well. Try the an­ti­dote,’ re­joined Mr. Crisparkle; ‘and may it give you a brighter and bet­ter view of the case! We will dis­cuss it no more now. I have to thank you for my­self, thank you sin­cere­ly.’

‘You shall find,’ said Jasper, as they shook hands, ‘that I will not do the thing you wish me to do, by halves. I will take care that Ned, giv­ing way at all, shall give way thor­ough­ly.’

On the third day after this con­ver­sa­tion, he called on Mr. Crisparkle with the fol­low­ing let­ter:

‘My dear Jack,

‘I am touched by your ac­count of your in­ter­view with Mr. Crisparkle, whom I much re­spect and es­teem. At once I open­ly say that I for­got my­self on that oc­ca­sion quite as much as Mr. Land­less did, and that I wish that by­gone to be a by­gone, and all to be right again.

‘Look here, dear old boy. Ask Mr. Land­less to din­ner on Christ­mas Eve (the bet­ter the day the bet­ter the deed), and let there be only we three, and let us shake hands all round there and then, and say no more about it.

‘My dear Jack,

‘Ever your most af­fec­tion­ate,

‘Edwin Drood.

‘P.S. Love to Miss Pussy at the next mu­sic-les­son.’

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

‘I count upon his com­ing,’ said Mr. Jasper.


CHAP­TER XI
A PIC­TURE AND A RING

Be­hind the most an­cient part of Hol­born, Lon­don, where cer­tain gabled hous­es some cen­turies of age still stand look­ing on the pub­lic way, as if dis­con­so­late­ly look­ing for the Old Bourne that has long run dry, is a lit­tle nook com­posed of two ir­reg­u­lar quad­ran­gles, called Sta­ple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the turn­ing into which out of the clash­ing street, im­parts to the re­lieved pedes­tri­an the sen­sa­tion of hav­ing put cot­ton in his ears, and vel­vet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks where a few smoky spar­rows twit­ter in smoky trees, as though they called to one an­oth­er, ‘Let us play at coun­try,’ and where a few feet of gar­den-mould and a few yards of grav­el en­able them to do that re­fresh­ing vi­o­lence to their tiny un­der­stand­ings. More­over, it is one of those nooks which are legal nooks; and it con­tains a lit­tle Hall, with a lit­tle lantern in its roof: to what ob­struc­tive pur­pos­es de­vot­ed, and at whose ex­pense, this his­to­ry knoweth not.

In the days when Clois­ter­ham took of­fence at the ex­is­tence of a rail­road afar off, as men­ac­ing that sen­si­tive con­sti­tu­tion, the prop­er­ty of us Britons: the odd for­tune of which sa­cred in­sti­tu­tion it is to be in ex­act­ly equal de­grees croaked about, trem­bled for, and boast­ed of, what­ev­er hap­pens to any­thing, any­where in the world: in those days no neigh­bour­ing ar­chi­tec­ture of lofty pro­por­tions had arisen to over­shad­ow Sta­ple Inn. The wes­t­er­ing sun be­stowed bright glances on it, and the south-west wind blew into it unim­ped­ed.

Nei­ther wind nor sun, how­ev­er, favoured Sta­ple Inn one De­cem­ber af­ter­noon to­wards six o’clock, when it was filled with fog, and can­dles shed murky and blurred rays through the win­dows of all its then-oc­cu­pied sets of cham­bers; no­tably from a set of cham­bers in a cor­ner house in the lit­tle inner quad­ran­gle, pre­sent­ing in black and white over its ugly por­tal the mys­te­ri­ous in­scrip­tion:

In which set of cham­bers, never hav­ing trou­bled his head about the in­scrip­tion, un­less to be­think him­self at odd times on glanc­ing up at it, that haply it might mean Per­haps John Thomas, or Per­haps Joe Tyler, sat Mr. Grew­gious writ­ing by his fire.

Who could have told, by look­ing at Mr. Grew­gious, whether he had ever known am­bi­tion or dis­ap­point­ment? He had been bred to the Bar, and had laid him­self out for cham­ber prac­tice; to draw deeds; ‘con­vey the wise it call,’ as Pis­tol says. But Con­veyanc­ing and he had made such a very in­dif­fer­ent mar­riage of it that they had sep­a­rat­ed by con­sent—if there can be said to be sep­a­ra­tion where there has never been com­ing to­geth­er.

No. Coy Con­veyanc­ing would not come to Mr. Grew­gious. She was wooed, not won, and they went their sev­er­al ways. But an Ar­bi­tra­tion being blown to­wards him by some un­ac­count­able wind, and he gain­ing great cred­it in it as one in­de­fati­ga­ble in seek­ing out right and doing right, a pret­ty fat Re­ceiver­ship was next blown into his pock­et by a wind more trace­able to its source. So, by chance, he had found his niche. Re­ceiv­er and Agent now, to two rich es­tates, and deput­ing their legal busi­ness, in an amount worth hav­ing, to a firm of so­lic­i­tors on the floor below, he had snuffed out his am­bi­tion (sup­pos­ing him to have ever light­ed it), and had set­tled down with his snuffers for the rest of his life under the dry vine and fig-tree of P. J. T., who plant­ed in sev­en­teen-forty-sev­en.

Many ac­counts and ac­count-books, many files of cor­re­spon­dence, and sev­er­al strong boxes, gar­nished Mr. Grew­gious’s room. They can scarce­ly be rep­re­sent­ed as hav­ing lum­bered it, so con­sci­en­tious and pre­cise was their or­der­ly ar­range­ment. The ap­pre­hen­sion of dying sud­den­ly, and leav­ing one fact or one fig­ure with any in­com­plete­ness or ob­scu­ri­ty at­tach­ing to it, would have stretched Mr. Grew­gious stone-dead any day. The largest fi­deli­ty to a trust was the life-blood of the man. There are sorts of life-blood that course more quick­ly, more gaily, more at­trac­tive­ly; but there is no bet­ter sort in cir­cu­la­tion.

There was no lux­u­ry in his room. Even its com­forts were lim­it­ed to its being dry and warm, and hav­ing a snug though faded fire­side. What may be called its pri­vate life was con­fined to the hearth, and all easy-chair, and an old-fash­ioned oc­ca­sion­al round table that was brought out upon the rug after busi­ness hours, from a cor­ner where it else­wise re­mained turned up like a shin­ing ma­hogany shield. Be­hind it, when stand­ing thus on the de­fen­sive, was a clos­et, usu­al­ly con­tain­ing some­thing good to drink. An outer room was the clerk’s room; Mr. Grew­gious’s sleep­ing-room was across the com­mon stair; and he held some not empty cel­larage at the bot­tom of the com­mon stair. Three hun­dred days in the year, at least, he crossed over to the hotel in Fur­ni­val’s Inn for his din­ner, and after din­ner crossed back again, to make the most of these sim­plic­i­ties until it should be­come broad busi­ness day once more, with P. J. T., date sev­en­teen-forty-sev­en.

As Mr. Grew­gious sat and wrote by his fire that af­ter­noon, so did the clerk of Mr. Grew­gious sit and write by his fire. A pale, puffy-faced, dark-haired per­son of thir­ty, with big dark eyes that whol­ly want­ed lus­tre, and a dis­sat­is­fied doughy com­plex­ion, that seemed to ask to be sent to the baker’s, this at­ten­dant was a mys­te­ri­ous being, pos­sessed of some strange power over Mr. Grew­gious. As though he had been called into ex­is­tence, like a fab­u­lous Fa­mil­iar, by a magic spell which had failed when re­quired to dis­miss him, he stuck tight to Mr. Grew­gious’s stool, al­though Mr. Grew­gious’s com­fort and con­ve­nience would man­i­fest­ly have been ad­vanced by dis­pos­sess­ing him. A gloomy per­son with tan­gled locks, and a gen­er­al air of hav­ing been reared under the shad­ow of that bale­ful tree of Java which has given shel­ter to more lies than the whole botan­i­cal king­dom, Mr. Grew­gious, nev­er­the­less, treat­ed him with un­ac­count­able con­sid­er­a­tion.

‘Now, Baz­zard,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, on the en­trance of his clerk: look­ing up from his pa­pers as he ar­ranged them for the night: ‘what is in the wind be­sides fog?’

‘Mr. Drood,’ said Baz­zard.

‘What of him?’

‘Has called,’ said Baz­zard.

‘You might have shown him in.’

‘I am doing it,’ said Baz­zard.

The vis­i­tor came in ac­cord­ing­ly.

‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Grew­gious, look­ing round his pair of of­fice can­dles. ‘I thought you had called and mere­ly left your name and gone. How do you do, Mr. Edwin? Dear me, you’re chok­ing!’

‘It’s this fog,’ re­turned Edwin; ‘and it makes my eyes smart, like Cayenne pep­per.’

‘Is it re­al­ly so bad as that? Pray undo your wrap­pers. It’s for­tu­nate I have so good a fire; but Mr. Baz­zard has taken care of me.’

‘No I haven’t,’ said Mr. Baz­zard at the door.

‘Ah! then it fol­lows that I must have taken care of my­self with­out ob­serv­ing it,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Pray be seat­ed in my chair. No. I beg! Com­ing out of such an at­mo­sphere, in my chair.’

Edwin took the easy-chair in the cor­ner; and the fog he had brought in with him, and the fog he took off with his great­coat and neck-shawl, was speed­i­ly licked up by the eager fire.

‘I look,’ said Edwin, smil­ing, ‘as if I had come to stop.’

‘—By the by,’ cried Mr. Grew­gious; ‘ex­cuse my in­ter­rupt­ing you; do stop. The fog may clear in an hour or two. We can have din­ner in from just across Hol­born. You had bet­ter take your Cayenne pep­per here than out­side; pray stop and dine.’

‘You are very kind,’ said Edwin, glanc­ing about him as though at­tract­ed by the no­tion of a new and rel­ish­ing sort of gip­sy-par­ty.

‘Not at all,’ said Mr. Grew­gious; ‘you are very kind to join issue with a bach­e­lor in cham­bers, and take pot-luck. And I’ll ask,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, drop­ping his voice, and speak­ing with a twin­kling eye, as if in­spired with a bright thought: ‘I’ll ask Baz­zard. He mightn’t like it else.—Baz­zard!’

Baz­zard reap­peared.

‘Dine present­ly with Mr. Drood and me.’

‘If I am or­dered to dine, of course I will, sir,’ was the gloomy an­swer.

‘Save the man!’ cried Mr. Grew­gious. ‘You’re not or­dered; you’re in­vit­ed.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Baz­zard; ‘in that case I don’t care if I do.’

‘That’s ar­ranged. And per­haps you wouldn’t mind,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘step­ping over to the hotel in Fur­ni­val’s, and ask­ing them to send in ma­te­ri­als for lay­ing the cloth. For din­ner we’ll have a tureen of the hottest and strongest soup avail­able, and we’ll have the best made-dish that can be rec­om­mend­ed, and we’ll have a joint (such as a haunch of mut­ton), and we’ll have a goose, or a turkey, or any lit­tle stuffed thing of that sort that may hap­pen to be in the bill of fare—in short, we’ll have what­ev­er there is on hand.’

These lib­er­al di­rec­tions Mr. Grew­gious is­sued with his usual air of read­ing an in­ven­to­ry, or re­peat­ing a les­son, or doing any­thing else by rote. Baz­zard, after draw­ing out the round table, with­drew to ex­e­cute them.

‘I was a lit­tle del­i­cate, you see,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, in a lower tone, after his clerk’s de­par­ture, ‘about em­ploy­ing him in the for­ag­ing or com­mis­sari­at de­part­ment. Be­cause he mightn’t like it.’

‘He seems to have his own way, sir,’ re­marked Edwin.

‘His own way?’ re­turned Mr. Grew­gious. ‘O dear no! Poor fel­low, you quite mis­take him. If he had his own way, he wouldn’t be here.’

‘I won­der where he would be!’ Edwin thought. But he only thought it, be­cause Mr. Grew­gious came and stood him­self with his back to the other cor­ner of the fire, and his shoul­der-blades against the chim­ney­p­iece, and col­lect­ed his skirts for easy con­ver­sa­tion.

‘I take it, with­out hav­ing the gift of prophe­cy, that you have done me the favour of look­ing in to men­tion that you are going down yon­der—where I can tell you, you are ex­pect­ed—and to offer to ex­e­cute any lit­tle com­mis­sion from me to my charm­ing ward, and per­haps to sharp­en me up a bit in any pro­ceed­ings? Eh, Mr. Edwin?’

‘I called, sir, be­fore going down, as an act of at­ten­tion.’

‘Of at­ten­tion!’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Ah! of course, not of im­pa­tience?’

‘Im­pa­tience, sir?’

Mr. Grew­gious had meant to be arch—not that he in the re­motest de­gree ex­pressed that mean­ing—and had brought him­self into scarce­ly sup­port­able prox­im­i­ty with the fire, as if to burn the fullest ef­fect of his arch­ness into him­self, as other sub­tle im­pres­sions are burnt into hard met­als. But his arch­ness sud­den­ly fly­ing be­fore the com­posed face and man­ner of his vis­i­tor, and only the fire re­main­ing, he start­ed and rubbed him­self.

‘I have late­ly been down yon­der,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, re­ar­rang­ing his skirts; ‘and that was what I re­ferred to, when I said I could tell you you are ex­pect­ed.’

‘In­deed, sir! Yes; I knew that Pussy was look­ing out for me.’

‘Do you keep a cat down there?’ asked Mr. Grew­gious.

Edwin coloured a lit­tle as he ex­plained: ‘I call Rosa Pussy.’

‘O, re­al­ly,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, smooth­ing down his head; ‘that’s very af­fa­ble.’

Edwin glanced at his face, un­cer­tain whether or no he se­ri­ous­ly ob­ject­ed to the ap­pel­la­tion. But Edwin might as well have glanced at the face of a clock.

‘A pet name, sir,’ he ex­plained again.

‘Umps,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, with a nod. But with such an ex­traor­di­nary com­pro­mise be­tween an un­qual­i­fied as­sent and a qual­i­fied dis­sent, that his vis­i­tor was much dis­con­cert­ed.

‘Did PRosa—’ Edwin began by way of re­cov­er­ing him­self.

‘PRosa?’ re­peat­ed Mr. Grew­gious.

‘I was going to say Pussy, and changed my mind;—did she tell you any­thing about the Land­less­es?’

‘No,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘What is the Land­less­es? An es­tate? A villa? A farm?’

‘A broth­er and sis­ter. The sis­ter is at the Nuns’ House, and has be­come a great friend of P—’

‘PRosa’s,’ Mr. Grew­gious struck in, with a fixed face.

‘She is a strik­ing­ly hand­some girl, sir, and I thought she might have been de­scribed to you, or pre­sent­ed to you per­haps?’

‘Nei­ther,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘But here is Baz­zard.’

Baz­zard re­turned, ac­com­pa­nied by two wait­ers—an im­mov­able wait­er, and a fly­ing wait­er; and the three brought in with them as much fog as gave a new roar to the fire. The fly­ing wait­er, who had brought ev­ery­thing on his shoul­ders, laid the cloth with amaz­ing ra­pid­i­ty and dex­ter­i­ty; while the im­mov­able wait­er, who had brought noth­ing, found fault with him. The fly­ing wait­er then high­ly pol­ished all the glass­es he had brought, and the im­mov­able wait­er looked through them. The fly­ing wait­er then flew across Hol­born for the soup, and flew back again, and then took an­oth­er flight for the made-dish, and flew back again, and then took an­oth­er flight for the joint and poul­try, and flew back again, and be­tween whiles took sup­ple­men­tary flights for a great va­ri­ety of ar­ti­cles, as it was dis­cov­ered from time to time that the im­mov­able wait­er had for­got­ten them all. But let the fly­ing wait­er cleave the air as he might, he was al­ways re­proached on his re­turn by the im­mov­able wait­er for bring­ing fog with him, and being out of breath. At the con­clu­sion of the repast, by which time the fly­ing wait­er was severe­ly blown, the im­mov­able wait­er gath­ered up the table­cloth under his arm with a grand air, and hav­ing stern­ly (not to say with in­dig­na­tion) looked on at the fly­ing wait­er while he set the clean glass­es round, di­rect­ed a vale­dic­to­ry glance to­wards Mr. Grew­gious, con­vey­ing: ‘Let it be clear­ly un­der­stood be­tween us that the re­ward is mine, and that Nil is the claim of this slave,’ and pushed the fly­ing wait­er be­fore him out of the room.

It was like a high­ly-fin­ished minia­ture paint­ing rep­re­sent­ing My Lords of the Cir­cum­lo­cu­tion De­part­ment, Com­man­der­ship-in-Chief of any sort, Gov­ern­ment. It was quite an ed­i­fy­ing lit­tle pic­ture to be hung on the line in the Na­tion­al Gallery.

As the fog had been the prox­i­mate cause of this sump­tu­ous repast, so the fog served for its gen­er­al sauce. To hear the out-door clerks sneez­ing, wheez­ing, and beat­ing their feet on the grav­el was a zest far sur­pass­ing Doc­tor Kitch­en­er’s. To bid, with a shiv­er, the un­for­tu­nate fly­ing wait­er shut the door be­fore he had opened it, was a condi­ment of a pro­founder flavour than Har­vey. And here let it be no­ticed, par­en­thet­i­cal­ly, that the leg of this young man, in its ap­pli­ca­tion to the door, evinced the finest sense of touch: al­ways pre­ced­ing him­self and tray (with some­thing of an an­gling air about it), by some sec­onds: and al­ways lin­ger­ing after he and the tray had dis­ap­peared, like Mac­beth’s leg when ac­com­pa­ny­ing him off the stage with re­luc­tance to the as­sas­si­na­tion of Dun­can.

The host had gone below to the cel­lar, and had brought up bot­tles of ruby, straw-coloured, and gold­en drinks, which had ripened long ago in lands where no fogs are, and had since lain slum­ber­ing in the shade. Sparkling and tin­gling after so long a nap, they pushed at their corks to help the corkscrew (like pris­on­ers help­ing ri­ot­ers to force their gates), and danced out gaily. If P. J. T. in sev­en­teen-forty-sev­en, or in any other year of his pe­ri­od, drank such wines—then, for a cer­tain­ty, P. J. T. was Pret­ty Jolly Too.

Ex­ter­nal­ly, Mr. Grew­gious showed no signs of being mel­lowed by these glow­ing vin­tages. In­stead of his drink­ing them, they might have been poured over him in his high-dried snuff form, and run to waste, for any lights and shades they caused to flick­er over his face. Nei­ther was his man­ner in­flu­enced. But, in his wood­en way, he had ob­ser­vant eyes for Edwin; and when at the end of din­ner, he mo­tioned Edwin back to his own easy-chair in the fire­side cor­ner, and Edwin sank lux­u­ri­ous­ly into it after very brief re­mon­strance, Mr. Grew­gious, as he turned his seat round to­wards the fire too, and smoothed his head and face, might have been seen look­ing at his vis­i­tor be­tween his smooth­ing fin­gers.

‘Baz­zard!’ said Mr. Grew­gious, sud­den­ly turn­ing to him.

‘I fol­low you, sir,’ re­turned Baz­zard; who had done his work of con­sum­ing meat and drink in a work­man­like man­ner, though most­ly in speech­less­ness.

‘I drink to you, Baz­zard; Mr. Edwin, suc­cess to Mr. Baz­zard!’

‘Suc­cess to Mr. Baz­zard!’ echoed Edwin, with a to­tal­ly un­found­ed ap­pear­ance of en­thu­si­asm, and with the un­spo­ken ad­di­tion: ‘What in, I won­der!’

‘And May!’ pur­sued Mr. Grew­gious—‘I am not at lib­er­ty to be def­i­nite—May!—my con­ver­sa­tion­al pow­ers are so very lim­it­ed that I know I shall not come well out of this—May!—it ought to be put imag­i­na­tive­ly, but I have no imag­i­na­tion—May!—the thorn of anx­i­ety is as near­ly the mark as I am like­ly to get—May it come out at last!’

Mr. Baz­zard, with a frown­ing smile at the fire, put a hand into his tan­gled locks, as if the thorn of anx­i­ety were there; then into his waist­coat, as if it were there; then into his pock­ets, as if it were there. In all these move­ments he was close­ly fol­lowed by the eyes of Edwin, as if that young gen­tle­man ex­pect­ed to see the thorn in ac­tion. It was not pro­duced, how­ev­er, and Mr. Baz­zard mere­ly said: ‘I fol­low you, sir, and I thank you.’

‘I am going,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, jin­gling his glass on the table with one hand, and bend­ing aside under cover of the other, to whis­per to Edwin, ‘to drink to my ward. But I put Baz­zard first. He mightn’t like it else.’

This was said with a mys­te­ri­ous wink; or what would have been a wink, if, in Mr. Grew­gious’s hands, it could have been quick enough. So Edwin winked re­spon­sive­ly, with­out the least idea what he meant by doing so.

‘And now,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘I de­vote a bumper to the fair and fas­ci­nat­ing Miss Rosa. Baz­zard, the fair and fas­ci­nat­ing Miss Rosa!’

‘I fol­low you, sir,’ said Baz­zard, ‘and I pledge you!’

‘And so do I!’ said Edwin.

‘Lord bless me,’ cried Mr. Grew­gious, break­ing the blank si­lence which of course en­sued: though why these paus­es should come upon us when we have per­formed any small so­cial rite, not di­rect­ly in­ducive of self-ex­am­i­na­tion or men­tal de­spon­den­cy, who can tell? ‘I am a par­tic­u­lar­ly An­gu­lar man, and yet I fancy (if I may use the word, not hav­ing a morsel of fancy), that I could draw a pic­ture of a true lover’s state of mind, to-night.’

‘Let us fol­low you, sir,’ said Baz­zard, ‘and have the pic­ture.’

‘Mr. Edwin will cor­rect it where it’s wrong,’ re­sumed Mr. Grew­gious, ‘and will throw in a few touch­es from the life. I dare say it is wrong in many par­tic­u­lars, and wants many touch­es from the life, for I was born a Chip, and have nei­ther soft sym­pa­thies nor soft ex­pe­ri­ences. Well! I haz­ard the guess that the true lover’s mind is com­plete­ly per­me­at­ed by the beloved ob­ject of his af­fec­tions. I haz­ard the guess that her dear name is pre­cious to him, can­not be heard or re­peat­ed with­out emo­tion, and is pre­served sa­cred. If he has any dis­tin­guish­ing ap­pel­la­tion of fond­ness for her, it is re­served for her, and is not for com­mon ears. A name that it would be a priv­i­lege to call her by, being alone with her own bright self, it would be a lib­er­ty, a cold­ness, an in­sen­si­bil­i­ty, al­most a breach of good faith, to flaunt else­where.’

It was won­der­ful to see Mr. Grew­gious sit­ting bolt up­right, with his hands on his knees, con­tin­u­ous­ly chop­ping this dis­course out of him­self: much as a char­i­ty boy with a very good mem­o­ry might get his cat­e­chism said: and evinc­ing no cor­re­spon­dent emo­tion what­ev­er, un­less in a cer­tain oc­ca­sion­al lit­tle tin­gling per­cep­ti­ble at the end of his nose.

‘My pic­ture,’ Mr. Grew­gious pro­ceed­ed, ‘goes on to rep­re­sent (under cor­rec­tion from you, Mr. Edwin), the true lover as ever im­pa­tient to be in the pres­ence or vicin­i­ty of the beloved ob­ject of his af­fec­tions; as car­ing very lit­tle for his case in any other so­ci­ety; and as con­stant­ly seek­ing that. If I was to say seek­ing that, as a bird seeks its nest, I should make an ass of my­self, be­cause that would trench upon what I un­der­stand to be po­et­ry; and I am so far from trench­ing upon po­et­ry at any time, that I never, to my knowl­edge, got with­in ten thou­sand miles of it. And I am be­sides to­tal­ly un­ac­quaint­ed with the habits of birds, ex­cept the birds of Sta­ple Inn, who seek their nests on ledges, and in gut­ter-pipes and chim­ney­pots, not con­struct­ed for them by the benef­i­cent hand of Na­ture. I beg, there­fore, to be un­der­stood as fore­go­ing the bird’s-nest. But my pic­ture does rep­re­sent the true lover as hav­ing no ex­is­tence sep­a­ra­ble from that of the beloved ob­ject of his af­fec­tions, and as liv­ing at once a dou­bled life and a halved life. And if I do not clear­ly ex­press what I mean by that, it is ei­ther for the rea­son that hav­ing no con­ver­sa­tion­al pow­ers, I can­not ex­press what I mean, or that hav­ing no mean­ing, I do not mean what I fail to ex­press. Which, to the best of my be­lief, is not the case.’

Edwin had turned red and turned white, as cer­tain points of this pic­ture came into the light. He now sat look­ing at the fire, and bit his lip.

‘The spec­u­la­tions of an An­gu­lar man,’ re­sumed Mr. Grew­gious, still sit­ting and speak­ing ex­act­ly as be­fore, ‘are prob­a­bly er­ro­neous on so glob­u­lar a topic. But I fig­ure to my­self (sub­ject, as be­fore, to Mr. Edwin’s cor­rec­tion), that there can be no cool­ness, no las­si­tude, no doubt, no in­dif­fer­ence, no half fire and half smoke state of mind, in a real lover. Pray am I at all near the mark in my pic­ture?’

As abrupt in his con­clu­sion as in his com­mence­ment and progress, he jerked this in­quiry at Edwin, and stopped when one might have sup­posed him in the mid­dle of his ora­tion.

‘I should say, sir,’ stam­mered Edwin, ‘as you refer the ques­tion to me—’

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘I refer it to you, as an au­thor­i­ty.’

‘I should say, then, sir,’ Edwin went on, em­bar­rassed, ‘that the pic­ture you have drawn is gen­er­al­ly cor­rect; but I sub­mit that per­haps you may be rather hard upon the un­lucky lover.’

‘Like­ly so,’ as­sent­ed Mr. Grew­gious, ‘like­ly so. I am a hard man in the grain.’

‘He may not show,’ said Edwin, ‘all he feels; or he may not—’

There he stopped so long, to find the rest of his sen­tence, that Mr. Grew­gious ren­dered his dif­fi­cul­ty a thou­sand times the greater by un­ex­pect­ed­ly strik­ing in with:

‘No to be sure; he may not!’

After that, they all sat silent; the si­lence of Mr. Baz­zard being oc­ca­sioned by slum­ber.

‘His re­spon­si­bil­i­ty is very great, though,’ said Mr. Grew­gious at length, with his eyes on the fire.

Edwin nod­ded as­sent, with his eyes on the fire.

‘And let him be sure that he tri­fles with no one,’ said Mr. Grew­gious; ‘nei­ther with him­self, nor with any other.’

Edwin bit his lip again, and still sat look­ing at the fire.

‘He must not make a play­thing of a trea­sure. Woe be­tide him if he does! Let him take that well to heart,’ said Mr. Grew­gious.

Though he said these things in short sen­tences, much as the sup­posi­ti­tious char­i­ty boy just now re­ferred to might have re­peat­ed a verse or two from the Book of Proverbs, there was some­thing dreamy (for so lit­er­al a man) in the way in which he now shook his right fore­fin­ger at the live coals in the grate, and again fell silent.

But not for long. As he sat up­right and stiff in his chair, he sud­den­ly rapped his knees, like the carved image of some queer Joss or other com­ing out of its rever­ie, and said: ‘We must fin­ish this bot­tle, Mr. Edwin. Let me help you. I’ll help Baz­zard too, though he is asleep. He mightn’t like it else.’

He helped them both, and helped him­self, and drained his glass, and stood it bot­tom up­ward on the table, as though he had just caught a blue­bot­tle in it.

‘And now, Mr. Edwin,’ he pro­ceed­ed, wip­ing his mouth and hands upon his hand­ker­chief: ‘to a lit­tle piece of busi­ness. You re­ceived from me, the other day, a cer­ti­fied copy of Miss Rosa’s fa­ther’s will. You knew its con­tents be­fore, but you re­ceived it from me as a mat­ter of busi­ness. I should have sent it to Mr. Jasper, but for Miss Rosa’s wish­ing it to come straight to you, in pref­er­ence. You re­ceived it?’

‘Quite safe­ly, sir.’

‘You should have ac­knowl­edged its re­ceipt,’ said Mr. Grew­gious; ‘busi­ness being busi­ness all the world over. How­ev­er, you did not.’

‘I meant to have ac­knowl­edged it when I first came in this evening, sir.’

‘Not a busi­ness-like ac­knowl­edg­ment,’ re­turned Mr. Grew­gious; ‘how­ev­er, let that pass. Now, in that doc­u­ment you have ob­served a few words of kind­ly al­lu­sion to its being left to me to dis­charge a lit­tle trust, con­fid­ed to me in con­ver­sa­tion, at such time as I in my dis­cre­tion may think best.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Mr. Edwin, it came into my mind just now, when I was look­ing at the fire, that I could, in my dis­cre­tion, ac­quit my­self of that trust at no bet­ter time than the pre­sent. Favour me with your at­ten­tion, half a minute.’

He took a bunch of keys from his pock­et, sin­gled out by the can­dle-light the key he want­ed, and then, with a can­dle in his hand, went to a bu­reau or es­critoire, un­locked it, touched the spring of a lit­tle se­cret draw­er, and took from it an or­di­nary ring-case made for a sin­gle ring. With this in his hand, he re­turned to his chair. As he held it up for the young man to see, his hand trem­bled.

‘Mr. Edwin, this rose of di­a­monds and ru­bies del­i­cate­ly set in gold, was a ring be­long­ing to Miss Rosa’s moth­er. It was re­moved from her dead hand, in my pres­ence, with such dis­tract­ed grief as I hope it may never be my lot to con­tem­plate again. Hard man as I am, I am not hard enough for that. See how bright these stones shine!’ open­ing the case. ‘And yet the eyes that were so much brighter, and that so often looked upon them with a light and a proud heart, have been ashes among ashes, and dust among dust, some years! If I had any imag­i­na­tion (which it is need­less to say I have not), I might imag­ine that the last­ing beau­ty of these stones was al­most cruel.’

He closed the case again as he spoke.

‘This ring was given to the young lady who was drowned so early in her beau­ti­ful and happy ca­reer, by her hus­band, when they first plight­ed their faith to one an­oth­er. It was he who re­moved it from her un­con­scious hand, and it was he who, when his death drew very near, placed it in mine. The trust in which I re­ceived it, was, that, you and Miss Rosa grow­ing to man­hood and wom­an­hood, and your be­trothal pros­per­ing and com­ing to ma­tu­ri­ty, I should give it to you to place upon her fin­ger. Fail­ing those de­sired re­sults, it was to re­main in my pos­ses­sion.’

Some trou­ble was in the young man’s face, and some in­de­ci­sion was in the ac­tion of his hand, as Mr. Grew­gious, look­ing stead­fast­ly at him, gave him the ring.

‘Your plac­ing it on her fin­ger,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘will be the solemn seal upon your strict fi­deli­ty to the liv­ing and the dead. You are going to her, to make the last ir­re­vo­ca­ble prepa­ra­tions for your mar­riage. Take it with you.’

The young man took the lit­tle case, and placed it in his breast.

‘If any­thing should be amiss, if any­thing should be even slight­ly wrong, be­tween you; if you should have any se­cret con­scious­ness that you are com­mit­ting your­self to this step for no high­er rea­son than be­cause you have long been ac­cus­tomed to look for­ward to it; then,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘I charge you once more, by the liv­ing and by the dead, to bring that ring back to me!’

Here Baz­zard awoke him­self by his own snor­ing; and, as is usual in such cases, sat apoplec­ti­cal­ly star­ing at va­can­cy, as de­fy­ing va­can­cy to ac­cuse him of hav­ing been asleep.

‘Baz­zard!’ said Mr. Grew­gious, hard­er than ever.

‘I fol­low you, sir,’ said Baz­zard, ‘and I have been fol­low­ing you.’

‘In dis­charge of a trust, I have hand­ed Mr. Edwin Drood a ring of di­a­monds and ru­bies. You see?’

Edwin re­pro­duced the lit­tle case, and opened it; and Baz­zard looked into it.

‘I fol­low you both, sir,’ re­turned Baz­zard, ‘and I wit­ness the trans­ac­tion.’

Ev­i­dent­ly anx­ious to get away and be alone, Edwin Drood now re­sumed his outer cloth­ing, mut­ter­ing some­thing about time and ap­point­ments. The fog was re­port­ed no clear­er (by the fly­ing wait­er, who alight­ed from a spec­u­la­tive flight in the cof­fee in­ter­est), but he went out into it; and Baz­zard, after his man­ner, ‘fol­lowed’ him.

Mr. Grew­gious, left alone, walked soft­ly and slow­ly to and fro, for an hour and more. He was rest­less to-night, and seemed dispir­it­ed.

‘I hope I have done right,’ he said. ‘The ap­peal to him seemed nec­es­sary. It was hard to lose the ring, and yet it must have gone from me very soon.’

He closed the empty lit­tle draw­er with a sigh, and shut and locked the es­critoire, and came back to the soli­tary fire­side.

‘Her ring,’ he went on. ‘Will it come back to me? My mind hangs about her ring very un­easi­ly to-night. But that is ex­plain­able. I have had it so long, and I have prized it so much! I won­der—’

He was in a won­der­ing mood as well as a rest­less; for, though he checked him­self at that point, and took an­oth­er walk, he re­sumed his won­der­ing when he sat down again.

‘I won­der (for the ten-thou­sandth time, and what a weak fool I, for what can it sig­ni­fy now!) whether he con­fid­ed the charge of their or­phan child to me, be­cause he knew—Good God, how like her moth­er she has be­come!’

‘I won­der whether he ever so much as sus­pect­ed that some one doted on her, at a hope­less, speech­less dis­tance, when he struck in and won her. I won­der whether it ever crept into his mind who that un­for­tu­nate some one was!’

‘I won­der whether I shall sleep to-night! At all events, I will shut out the world with the bed­clothes, and try.’

Mr. Grew­gious crossed the stair­case to his raw and foggy bed­room, and was soon ready for bed. Dimly catch­ing sight of his face in the misty look­ing-glass, he held his can­dle to it for a mo­ment.

‘A like­ly some one, you, to come into any­body’s thoughts in such an as­pect!’ he ex­claimed. ‘There! there! there! Get to bed, poor man, and cease to jab­ber!’

With that, he ex­tin­guished his light, pulled up the bed­clothes around him, and with an­oth­er sigh shut out the world. And yet there are such un­ex­plored ro­man­tic nooks in the un­like­li­est men, that even old tin­der­ous and touch­woody P. J. T. Pos­si­bly Jab­bered Thus, at some odd times, in or about sev­en­teen-forty-sev­en.


CHAP­TER XII
A NIGHT WITH DUR­DLES

When Mr. Sapsea has noth­ing bet­ter to do, to­wards evening, and finds the con­tem­pla­tion of his own pro­fun­di­ty be­com­ing a lit­tle monotonous in spite of the vast­ness of the sub­ject, he often takes an air­ing in the Cathe­dral Close and there­about. He likes to pass the church­yard with a swelling air of pro­pri­etor­ship, and to en­cour­age in his breast a sort of be­nig­nant-land­lord feel­ing, in that he has been boun­ti­ful to­wards that mer­i­to­ri­ous ten­ant, Mrs. Sapsea, and has pub­licly given her a prize. He likes to see a stray face or two look­ing in through the rail­ings, and per­haps read­ing his in­scrip­tion. Should he meet a stranger com­ing from the church­yard with a quick step, he is moral­ly con­vinced that the stranger is ‘with a blush re­tir­ing,’ as mon­u­men­tal­ly di­rect­ed.

Mr. Sapsea’s im­por­tance has re­ceived en­hance­ment, for he has be­come Mayor of Clois­ter­ham. With­out may­ors, and many of them, it can­not be dis­put­ed that the whole frame­work of so­ci­ety—Mr. Sapsea is con­fi­dent that he in­vent­ed that forcible fig­ure—would fall to pieces. May­ors have been knight­ed for ‘going up’ with ad­dress­es: ex­plo­sive ma­chines in­trepid­ly dis­charg­ing shot and shell into the En­glish Gram­mar. Mr. Sapsea may ‘go up’ with an ad­dress. Rise, Sir Thomas Sapsea! Of such is the salt of the earth.

Mr. Sapsea has im­proved the ac­quain­tance of Mr. Jasper, since their first meet­ing to par­take of port, epi­taph, backgam­mon, beef, and salad. Mr. Sapsea has been re­ceived at the gate­house with kin­dred hos­pi­tal­i­ty; and on that oc­ca­sion Mr. Jasper seat­ed him­self at the piano, and sang to him, tick­ling his ears—fig­u­ra­tive­ly—long enough to pre­sent a con­sid­er­able area for tick­ling. What Mr. Sapsea likes in that young man is, that he is al­ways ready to prof­it by the wis­dom of his el­ders, and that he is sound, sir, at the core. In proof of which, he sang to Mr. Sapsea that evening, no kick­shaw dit­ties, favourites with na­tion­al en­e­mies, but gave him the gen­uine George the Third home-brewed; ex­hort­ing him (as ‘my brave boys’) to re­duce to a smashed con­di­tion all other is­lands but this is­land, and all con­ti­nents, penin­su­las, isth­mus­es, promon­to­ries, and other ge­o­graph­i­cal forms of land so­ev­er, be­sides sweep­ing the seas in all di­rec­tions. In short, he ren­dered it pret­ty clear that Prov­i­dence made a dis­tinct mis­take in orig­i­nat­ing so small a na­tion of hearts of oak, and so many other ver­minous peo­ples.

Mr. Sapsea, walk­ing slow­ly this moist evening near the church­yard with his hands be­hind him, on the look-out for a blush­ing and re­tir­ing stranger, turns a cor­ner, and comes in­stead into the good­ly pres­ence of the Dean, con­vers­ing with the Verg­er and Mr. Jasper. Mr. Sapsea makes his obei­sance, and is in­stant­ly strick­en far more ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal than any Arch­bish­op of York or Can­ter­bury.

‘You are ev­i­dent­ly going to write a book about us, Mr. Jasper,’ quoth the Dean; ‘to write a book about us. Well! We are very an­cient, and we ought to make a good book. We are not so rich­ly en­dowed in pos­ses­sions as in age; but per­haps you will put that in your book, among other things, and call at­ten­tion to our wrongs.’

Mr. Tope, as in duty bound, is great­ly en­ter­tained by this.

‘I re­al­ly have no in­ten­tion at all, sir,’ replies Jasper, ‘of turn­ing au­thor or archæol­o­gist. It is but a whim of mine. And even for my whim, Mr. Sapsea here is more ac­count­able than I am.’

‘How so, Mr. Mayor?’ says the Dean, with a nod of good-na­tured recog­ni­tion of his Fetch. ‘How is that, Mr. Mayor?’

‘I am not aware,’ Mr. Sapsea re­marks, look­ing about him for in­for­ma­tion, ‘to what the Very Rev­erend the Dean does me the hon­our of re­fer­ring.’ And then falls to study­ing his orig­i­nal in minute points of de­tail.

‘Dur­dles,’ Mr. Tope hints.

‘Ay!’ the Dean echoes; ‘Dur­dles, Dur­dles!’

‘The truth is, sir,’ ex­plains Jasper, ‘that my cu­rios­i­ty in the man was first re­al­ly stim­u­lat­ed by Mr. Sapsea. Mr. Sapsea’s knowl­edge of mankind and power of draw­ing out what­ev­er is recluse or odd around him, first led to my be­stow­ing a sec­ond thought upon the man: though of course I had met him con­stant­ly about. You would not be sur­prised by this, Mr. Dean, if you had seen Mr. Sapsea deal with him in his own par­lour, as I did.’

‘O!’ cries Sapsea, pick­ing up the ball thrown to him with in­ef­fa­ble com­pla­cen­cy and pom­pos­i­ty; ‘yes, yes. The Very Rev­erend the Dean refers to that? Yes. I hap­pened to bring Dur­dles and Mr. Jasper to­geth­er. I re­gard Dur­dles as a Char­ac­ter.’

‘A char­ac­ter, Mr. Sapsea, that with a few skil­ful touch­es you turn in­side out,’ says Jasper.

‘Nay, not quite that,’ re­turns the lum­ber­ing auc­tion­eer. ‘I may have a lit­tle in­flu­ence over him, per­haps; and a lit­tle in­sight into his char­ac­ter, per­haps. The Very Rev­erend the Dean will please to bear in mind that I have seen the world.’ Here Mr. Sapsea gets a lit­tle be­hind the Dean, to in­spect his coat-but­tons.

‘Well!’ says the Dean, look­ing about him to see what has be­come of his copy­ist: ‘I hope, Mr. Mayor, you will use your study and knowl­edge of Dur­dles to the good pur­pose of ex­hort­ing him not to break our wor­thy and re­spect­ed Choir-Mas­ter’s neck; we can­not af­ford it; his head and voice are much too valu­able to us.’

Mr. Tope is again high­ly en­ter­tained, and, hav­ing fall­en into re­spect­ful con­vul­sions of laugh­ter, sub­sides into a def­er­en­tial mur­mur, im­port­ing that sure­ly any gen­tle­man would deem it a plea­sure and an hon­our to have his neck bro­ken, in re­turn for such a com­pli­ment from such a source.

‘I will take it upon my­self, sir,’ ob­serves Sapsea lofti­ly, ‘to an­swer for Mr. Jasper’s neck. I will tell Dur­dles to be care­ful of it. He will mind what I say. How is it at pre­sent en­dan­gered?’ he in­quires, look­ing about him with mag­nif­i­cent pa­tron­age.

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

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

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

‘And here he is,’ says the Dean.

Dur­dles with his din­ner-bun­dle in his hand, is in­deed be­held slouch­ing to­wards them. Slouch­ing near­er, and per­ceiv­ing the Dean, he pulls off his hat, and is slouch­ing away with it under his arm, when Mr. Sapsea stops him.

‘Mind you take care of my friend,’ is the in­junc­tion Mr. Sapsea lays upon him.

‘What friend o’ yourn is dead?’ asks Dur­dles. ‘No or­ders has come in for any friend o’ yourn.’

‘I mean my live friend there.’

‘O! him?’ says Dur­dles. ‘He can take care of him­self, can Mis­ter Jarsper.’

‘But do you take care of him too,’ says Sapsea.

Whom Dur­dles (there being com­mand in his tone) surlily sur­veys from head to foot.

‘With sub­mis­sion to his Rev­er­ence the Dean, if you’ll mind what con­cerns you, Mr. Sapsea, Dur­dles he’ll mind what con­cerns him.’

‘You’re out of tem­per,’ says Mr. Sapsea, wink­ing to the com­pa­ny to ob­serve how smooth­ly he will man­age him. ‘My friend con­cerns me, and Mr. Jasper is my friend. And you are my friend.’

‘Don’t you get into a bad habit of boast­ing,’ re­torts Dur­dles, with a grave cau­tion­ary nod. ‘It’ll grow upon you.’

‘You are out of tem­per,’ says Sapsea again; red­den­ing, but again sink­ing to the com­pa­ny.

‘I own to it,’ re­turns Dur­dles; ‘I don’t like lib­er­ties.’

Mr. Sapsea winks a third wink to the com­pa­ny, as who should say: ‘I think you will agree with me that I have set­tled his busi­ness;’ and stalks out of the con­tro­ver­sy.

Dur­dles then gives the Dean a good evening, and adding, as he puts his hat on, ‘You’ll find me at home, Mis­ter Jarsper, as agreed, when you want me; I’m a-go­ing home to clean my­self,’ soon slouch­es out of sight. This going home to clean him­self is one of the man’s in­com­pre­hen­si­ble com­pro­mis­es with in­ex­orable facts; he, and his hat, and his boots, and his clothes, never show­ing any trace of clean­ing, but being uni­form­ly in one con­di­tion of dust and grit.

The lamp­lighter now dot­ting the quiet Close with specks of light, and run­ning at a great rate up and down his lit­tle lad­der with that ob­ject—his lit­tle lad­der under the sa­cred shad­ow of whose in­con­ve­nience gen­er­a­tions had grown up, and which all Clois­ter­ham would have stood aghast at the idea of abol­ish­ing—the Dean with­draws to his din­ner, Mr. Tope to his tea, and Mr. Jasper to his piano. There, with no light but that of the fire, he sits chant­ing choir-mu­sic in a low and beau­ti­ful voice, for two or three hours; in short, until it has been for some time dark, and the moon is about to rise.

Then he clos­es his piano soft­ly, soft­ly changes his coat for a pea-jack­et, with a good­ly wick­er-cased bot­tle in its largest pock­et, and putting on a low-crowned, flap-brimmed hat, goes soft­ly out. Why does he move so soft­ly to-night? No out­ward rea­son is ap­par­ent for it. Can there be any sym­pa­thet­ic rea­son crouch­ing dark­ly with­in him?

Re­pair­ing to Dur­dles’s un­fin­ished house, or hole in the city wall, and see­ing a light with­in it, he soft­ly picks his course among the grave­stones, mon­u­ments, and stony lum­ber of the yard, al­ready touched here and there, side­wise, by the ris­ing moon. The two jour­ney­men have left their two great saws stick­ing in their blocks of stone; and two skele­ton jour­ney­men out of the Dance of Death might be grin­ning in the shad­ow of their shel­ter­ing sen­try-box­es, about to slash away at cut­ting out the grave­stones of the next two peo­ple des­tined to die in Clois­ter­ham. Like­ly enough, the two think lit­tle of that now, being alive, and per­haps merry. Cu­ri­ous, to make a guess at the two;—or say one of the two!

‘Ho! Dur­dles!’

The light moves, and he ap­pears with it at the door. He would seem to have been ‘clean­ing him­self’ with the aid of a bot­tle, jug, and tum­bler; for no other cleans­ing in­stru­ments are vis­i­ble in the bare brick room with rafters over­head and no plas­tered ceil­ing, into which he shows his vis­i­tor.

‘Are you ready?’

‘I am ready, Mis­ter Jarsper. Let the old ’uns come out if they dare, when we go among their tombs. My spir­it is ready for ’em.’

‘Do you mean an­i­mal spir­its, or ar­dent?’

‘The one’s the t’other,’ an­swers Dur­dles, ‘and I mean ’em both.’

He takes a lantern from a hook, puts a match or two in his pock­et where­with to light it, should there be need; and they go out to­geth­er, din­ner-bun­dle and all.

Sure­ly an un­ac­count­able sort of ex­pe­di­tion! That Dur­dles him­self, who is al­ways prowl­ing among old graves, and ruins, like a Ghoul—that he should be steal­ing forth to climb, and dive, and wan­der with­out an ob­ject, is noth­ing ex­traor­di­nary; but that the Choir-Mas­ter or any one else should hold it worth his while to be with him, and to study moon­light ef­fects in such com­pa­ny is an­oth­er af­fair. Sure­ly an un­ac­count­able sort of ex­pe­di­tion, there­fore!

‘’Ware that there mound by the yard-gate, Mis­ter Jarsper.’

‘I see it. What is it?’

‘Lime.’

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

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

They go on, present­ly pass­ing the red win­dows of the Trav­ellers’ Twopen­ny, and emerg­ing into the clear moon­light of the Monks’ Vine­yard. This crossed, they come to Minor Canon Cor­ner: of which the greater part lies in shad­ow until the moon shall rise high­er in the sky.

The sound of a clos­ing house-door strikes their ears, and two men come out. These are Mr. Crisparkle and Neville. Jasper, with a strange and sud­den smile upon his face, lays the palm of his hand upon the breast of Dur­dles, stop­ping him where he stands.

At that end of Minor Canon Cor­ner the shad­ow is pro­found in the ex­ist­ing state of the light: at that end, too, there is a piece of old dwarf wall, breast high, the only re­main­ing bound­ary of what was once a gar­den, but is now the thor­ough­fare. Jasper and Dur­dles would have turned this wall in an­oth­er in­stant; but, stop­ping so short, stand be­hind it.

‘Those two are only saun­ter­ing,’ Jasper whis­pers; ‘they will go out into the moon­light soon. Let us keep quiet here, or they will de­tain us, or want to join us, or what not.’

Dur­dles nods as­sent, and falls to munch­ing some frag­ments from his bun­dle. Jasper folds his arms upon the top of the wall, and, with his chin rest­ing on them, watch­es. He takes no note what­ev­er of the Minor Canon, but watch­es Neville, as though his eye were at the trig­ger of a load­ed rifle, and he had cov­ered him, and were going to fire. A sense of de­struc­tive power is so ex­pressed in his face, that even Dur­dles paus­es in his munch­ing, and looks at him, with an un­munched some­thing in his cheek.

Mean­while Mr. Crisparkle and Neville walk to and fro, qui­et­ly talk­ing to­geth­er. What they say, can­not be heard con­sec­u­tive­ly; but Mr. Jasper has al­ready dis­tin­guished his own name more than once.

‘This is the first day of the week,’ Mr. Crisparkle can be dis­tinct­ly heard to ob­serve, as they turn back; ‘and the last day of the week is Christ­mas Eve.’

‘You may be cer­tain of me, sir.’

The echoes were favourable at those points, but as the two ap­proach, the sound of their talk­ing be­comes con­fused again. The word ‘con­fi­dence,’ shat­tered by the echoes, but still ca­pa­ble of being pieced to­geth­er, is ut­tered by Mr. Crisparkle. As they draw still near­er, this frag­ment of a reply is heard: ‘Not de­served yet, but shall be, sir.’ As they turn away again, Jasper again hears his own name, in con­nec­tion with the words from Mr. Crisparkle: ‘Re­mem­ber that I said I an­swered for you con­fi­dent­ly.’ Then the sound of their talk be­comes con­fused again; they halt­ing for a lit­tle while, and some earnest ac­tion on the part of Neville suc­ceed­ing. When they move once more, Mr. Crisparkle is seen to look up at the sky, and to point be­fore him. They then slow­ly dis­ap­pear; pass­ing out into the moon­light at the op­po­site end of the Cor­ner.

It is not until they are gone, that Mr. Jasper moves. But then he turns to Dur­dles, and bursts into a fit of laugh­ter. Dur­dles, who still has that sus­pend­ed some­thing in his cheek, and who sees noth­ing to laugh at, stares at him until Mr. Jasper lays his face down on his arms to have his laugh out. Then Dur­dles bolts the some­thing, as if des­per­ate­ly re­sign­ing him­self to in­di­ges­tion.

Among those se­clud­ed nooks there is very lit­tle stir or move­ment after dark. There is lit­tle enough in the high tide of the day, but there is next to none at night. Be­sides that the cheer­ful­ly fre­quent­ed High Street lies near­ly par­al­lel to the spot (the old Cathe­dral ris­ing be­tween the two), and is the nat­u­ral chan­nel in which the Clois­ter­ham traf­fic flows, a cer­tain awful hush per­vades the an­cient pile, the clois­ters, and the church­yard, after dark, which not many peo­ple care to en­counter. Ask the first hun­dred cit­i­zens of Clois­ter­ham, met at ran­dom in the streets at noon, if they be­lieved in Ghosts, they would tell you no; but put them to choose at night be­tween these eerie Precincts and the thor­ough­fare of shops, and you would find that nine­ty-nine de­clared for the longer round and the more fre­quent­ed way. The cause of this is not to be found in any local su­per­sti­tion that at­tach­es to the Precincts—al­beit a mys­te­ri­ous lady, with a child in her arms and a rope dan­gling from her neck, has been seen flit­ting about there by sundry wit­ness­es as in­tan­gi­ble as her­self—but it is to be sought in the in­nate shrink­ing of dust with the breath of life in it from dust out of which the breath of life has passed; also, in the wide­ly dif­fused, and al­most as wide­ly un­ac­knowl­edged, re­flec­tion: ‘If the dead do, under any cir­cum­stances, be­come vis­i­ble to the liv­ing, these are such like­ly sur­round­ings for the pur­pose that I, the liv­ing, will get out of them as soon as I can.’ Hence, when Mr. Jasper and Dur­dles pause to glance around them, be­fore de­scend­ing into the crypt by a small side door, of which the lat­ter has a key, the whole ex­panse of moon­light in their view is ut­ter­ly de­sert­ed. One might fancy that the tide of life was stemmed by Mr. Jasper’s own gate­house. The mur­mur of the tide is heard be­yond; but no wave pass­es the arch­way, over which his lamp burns red be­hind his cur­tain, as if the build­ing were a Light­house.

They enter, lock­ing them­selves in, de­scend the rugged steps, and are down in the Crypt. The lantern is not want­ed, for the moon­light strikes in at the groined win­dows, bare of glass, the bro­ken frames for which cast pat­terns on the ground. The heavy pil­lars which sup­port the roof en­gen­der mass­es of black shade, but be­tween them there are lanes of light. Up and down these lanes they walk, Dur­dles dis­cours­ing of the ‘old uns’ he yet counts on dis­in­ter­ring, and slap­ping a wall, in which he con­sid­ers ‘a whole fam­i­ly on ’em’ to be stoned and earth­ed up, just as if he were a fa­mil­iar friend of the fam­i­ly. The tac­i­tur­ni­ty of Dur­dles is for the time over­come by Mr. Jasper’s wick­er bot­tle, which cir­cu­lates freely;—in the sense, that is to say, that its con­tents enter freely into Mr. Dur­dles’s cir­cu­la­tion, while Mr. Jasper only rins­es his mouth once, and casts forth the rins­ing.

They are to as­cend the great Tower. On the steps by which they rise to the Cathe­dral, Dur­dles paus­es for new store of breath. The steps are very dark, but out of the dark­ness they can see the lanes of light they have tra­versed. Dur­dles seats him­self upon a step. Mr. Jasper seats him­self upon an­oth­er. The odour from the wick­er bot­tle (which has some­how passed into Dur­dles’s keep­ing) soon in­ti­mates that the cork has been taken out; but this is not as­cer­tain­able through the sense of sight, since nei­ther can de­scry the other. And yet, in talk­ing, they turn to one an­oth­er, as though their faces could com­mune to­geth­er.

‘This is good stuff, Mis­ter Jarsper!’

‘It is very good stuff, I hope.—I bought it on pur­pose.’

‘They don’t show, you see, the old uns don’t, Mis­ter Jarsper!’

‘It would be a more con­fused world than it is, if they could.’

‘Well, it would lead to­wards a mix­ing of things,’ Dur­dles ac­qui­esces: paus­ing on the re­mark, as if the idea of ghosts had not pre­vi­ous­ly pre­sent­ed it­self to him in a mere­ly in­con­ve­nient light, do­mes­ti­cal­ly or chrono­log­i­cal­ly. ‘But do you think there may be Ghosts of other things, though not of men and women?’

‘What things? Flow­er-beds and wa­ter­ing-pots? hors­es and har­ness?’

‘No. Sounds.’

‘What sounds?’

‘Cries.’

‘What cries do you mean? Chairs to mend?’

‘No. I mean screech­es. Now I’ll tell you, Mr. Jarsper. Wait a bit till I put the bot­tle right.’ Here the cork is ev­i­dent­ly taken out again, and re­placed again. ‘There! Now it’s right! This time last year, only a few days later, I hap­pened to have been doing what was cor­rect by the sea­son, in the way of giv­ing it the wel­come it had a right to ex­pect, when them town-boys set on me at their worst. At length I gave ’em the slip, and turned in here. And here I fell asleep. And what woke me? The ghost of a cry. The ghost of one ter­rif­ic shriek, which shriek was fol­lowed by the ghost of the howl of a dog: a long, dis­mal, woe­ful howl, such as a dog gives when a per­son’s dead. That was my last Christ­mas Eve.’

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

‘I mean that I made in­quiries ev­ery­where about, and, that no liv­ing ears but mine heard ei­ther that cry or that howl. So I say they was both ghosts; though why they came to me, I’ve never made out.’

‘I thought you were an­oth­er kind of man,’ says Jasper, scorn­ful­ly.

‘So I thought my­self,’ an­swers Dur­dles with his usual com­po­sure; ‘and yet I was picked out for it.’

Jasper had risen sud­den­ly, when he asked him what he meant, and he now says, ‘Come; we shall freeze here; lead the way.’

Dur­dles com­plies, not over-steadi­ly; opens the door at the top of the steps with the key he has al­ready used; and so emerges on the Cathe­dral level, in a pas­sage at the side of the chan­cel. Here, the moon­light is so very bright again that the colours of the near­est stained-glass win­dow are thrown upon their faces. The ap­pear­ance of the un­con­scious Dur­dles, hold­ing the door open for his com­pan­ion to fol­low, as if from the grave, is ghast­ly enough, with a pur­ple hand across his face, and a yel­low splash upon his brow; but he bears the close scruti­ny of his com­pan­ion in an in­sen­si­ble way, al­though it is pro­longed while the lat­ter fum­bles among his pock­ets for a key con­fid­ed to him that will open an iron gate, so to en­able them to pass to the stair­case of the great tower.

‘That and the bot­tle are enough for you to carry,’ he says, giv­ing it to Dur­dles; ‘hand your bun­dle to me; I am younger and longer-wind­ed than you.’ Dur­dles hes­i­tates for a mo­ment be­tween bun­dle and bot­tle; but gives the pref­er­ence to the bot­tle as being by far the bet­ter com­pa­ny, and con­signs the dry weight to his fel­low-ex­plor­er.

Then they go up the wind­ing stair­case of the great tower, toil­some­ly, turn­ing and turn­ing, and low­er­ing their heads to avoid the stairs above, or the rough stone pivot around which they twist. Dur­dles has light­ed his lantern, by draw­ing from the cold, hard wall a spark of that mys­te­ri­ous fire which lurks in ev­ery­thing, and, guid­ed by this speck, they clam­ber up among the cob­webs and the dust. Their way lies through strange places. Twice or thrice they emerge into level, low-arched gal­leries, whence they can look down into the moon-lit nave; and where Dur­dles, wav­ing his lantern, waves the dim an­gels’ heads upon the cor­bels of the roof, seem­ing to watch their progress. Anon they turn into nar­row­er and steep­er stair­cas­es, and the night-air be­gins to blow upon them, and the chirp of some star­tled jack­daw or fright­ened rook pre­cedes the heavy beat­ing of wings in a con­fined space, and the beat­ing down of dust and straws upon their heads. At last, leav­ing their light be­hind a stair—for it blows fresh up here—they look down on Clois­ter­ham, fair to see in the moon­light: its ru­ined habi­ta­tions and sanc­tu­ar­ies of the dead, at the tower’s base: its moss-soft­ened red-tiled roofs and red-brick hous­es of the liv­ing, clus­tered be­yond: its river wind­ing down from the mist on the hori­zon, as though that were its source, and al­ready heav­ing with a rest­less knowl­edge of its ap­proach to­wards the sea.

Once again, an un­ac­count­able ex­pe­di­tion this! Jasper (al­ways mov­ing soft­ly with no vis­i­ble rea­son) con­tem­plates the scene, and es­pe­cial­ly that stillest part of it which the Cathe­dral over­shad­ows. But he con­tem­plates Dur­dles quite as cu­ri­ous­ly, and Dur­dles is by times con­scious of his watch­ful eyes.

Only by times, be­cause Dur­dles is grow­ing drowsy. As aëro­nauts light­en the load they carry, when they wish to rise, sim­i­lar­ly Dur­dles has light­ened the wick­er bot­tle in com­ing up. Snatch­es of sleep sur­prise him on his legs, and stop him in his talk. A mild fit of ca­len­ture seizes him, in which he deems that the ground so far below, is on a level with the tower, and would as lief walk off the tower into the air as not. Such is his state when they begin to come down. And as aëro­nauts make them­selves heav­ier when they wish to de­scend, sim­i­lar­ly Dur­dles charges him­self with more liq­uid from the wick­er bot­tle, that he may come down the bet­ter.

The iron gate at­tained and locked—but not be­fore Dur­dles has tum­bled twice, and cut an eye­brow open once—they de­scend into the crypt again, with the in­tent of is­su­ing forth as they en­tered. But, while re­turn­ing among those lanes of light, Dur­dles be­comes so very un­cer­tain, both of foot and speech, that he half drops, half throws him­self down, by one of the heavy pil­lars, scarce­ly less heavy than it­self, and in­dis­tinct­ly ap­peals to his com­pan­ion for forty winks of a sec­ond each.

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

Dur­dles is asleep at once; and in his sleep he dreams a dream.

It is not much of a dream, con­sid­er­ing the vast ex­tent of the do­mains of dream­land, and their won­der­ful pro­duc­tions; it is only re­mark­able for being un­usu­al­ly rest­less and un­usu­al­ly real. He dreams of lying there, asleep, and yet count­ing his com­pan­ion’s foot­steps as he walks to and fro. He dreams that the foot­steps die away into dis­tance of time and of space, and that some­thing touch­es him, and that some­thing falls from his hand. Then some­thing clinks and gropes about, and he dreams that he is alone for so long a time, that the lanes of light take new di­rec­tions as the moon ad­vances in her course. From suc­ceed­ing un­con­scious­ness he pass­es into a dream of slow un­easi­ness from cold; and painful­ly awakes to a per­cep­tion of the lanes of light—re­al­ly changed, much as he had dreamed—and Jasper walk­ing among them, beat­ing his hands and feet.

‘Hol­loa!’ Dur­dles cries out, un­mean­ing­ly alarmed.

‘Awake at last?’ says Jasper, com­ing up to him. ‘Do you know that your for­ties have stretched into thou­sands?’

‘No.’

‘They have though.’

‘What’s the time?’

‘Hark! The bells are going in the Tower!’

They strike four quar­ters, and then the great bell strikes.

‘Two!’ cries Dur­dles, scram­bling up; ‘why didn’t you try to wake me, Mis­ter Jarsper?’

‘I did. I might as well have tried to wake the dead—your own fam­i­ly of dead, up in the cor­ner there.’

‘Did you touch me?’

‘Touch you! Yes. Shook you.’

As Dur­dles re­calls that touch­ing some­thing in his dream, he looks down on the pave­ment, and sees the key of the crypt door lying close to where he him­self lay.

‘I dropped you, did I?’ he says, pick­ing it up, and re­call­ing that part of his dream. As he gath­ers him­self up again into an up­right po­si­tion, or into a po­si­tion as near­ly up­right as he ever main­tains, he is again con­scious of being watched by his com­pan­ion.

‘Well?’ says Jasper, smil­ing, ‘are you quite ready? Pray don’t hurry.’

‘Let me get my bun­dle right, Mis­ter Jarsper, and I’m with you.’ As he ties it afresh, he is once more con­scious that he is very nar­row­ly ob­served.

‘What do you sus­pect me of, Mis­ter Jarsper?’ he asks, with drunk­en dis­plea­sure. ‘Let them as has any sus­pi­cions of Dur­dles name ’em.’

‘I’ve no sus­pi­cions of you, my good Mr. Dur­dles; but I have sus­pi­cions that my bot­tle was filled with some­thing stiffer than ei­ther of us sup­posed. And I also have sus­pi­cions,’ Jasper adds, tak­ing it from the pave­ment and turn­ing it bot­tom up­wards, ‘that it’s empty.’

Dur­dles con­de­scends to laugh at this. Con­tin­u­ing to chuck­le when his laugh is over, as though re­mon­strant with him­self on his drink­ing pow­ers, he rolls to the door and un­locks it. They both pass out, and Dur­dles re­locks it, and pock­ets his key.

‘A thou­sand thanks for a cu­ri­ous and in­ter­est­ing night,’ says Jasper, giv­ing him his hand; ‘you can make your own way home?’

‘I should think so!’ an­swers Dur­dles. ‘If you was to offer Dur­dles the af­front to show him his way home, he wouldn’t go home.

Dur­dles wouldn’t go home till morn­ing;

And then Dur­dles wouldn’t go home,

Dur­dles wouldn’t.’ This with the ut­most de­fi­ance.

‘Good-night, then.’

‘Good-night, Mis­ter Jarsper.’

Each is turn­ing his own way, when a sharp whis­tle rends the si­lence, and the jar­gon is yelped out:

Widdy widdy wen!
I—ket—ches—Im—out—ar—ter—ten.
Widdy widdy wy!
Then—E—don’t—go—then—I—shy—
Widdy Widdy Wake-cock warn­ing!’

In­stant­ly af­ter­wards, a rapid fire of stones rat­tles at the Cathe­dral wall, and the hideous small boy is be­held op­po­site, danc­ing in the moon­light.

‘What! Is that ba­by-dev­il on the watch there!’ cries Jasper in a fury: so quick­ly roused, and so vi­o­lent, that he seems an older devil him­self. ‘I shall shed the blood of that imp­ish wretch! I know I shall do it!’ Re­gard­less of the fire, though it hits him more than once, he rush­es at Deputy, col­lars him, and tries to bring him across. But Deputy is not to be so eas­i­ly brought across. With a di­a­bol­i­cal in­sight into the strongest part of his po­si­tion, he is no soon­er taken by the throat than he curls up his legs, forces his as­sailant to hang him, as it were, and gur­gles in his throat, and screws his body, and twists, as al­ready un­der­go­ing the first ag­o­nies of stran­gu­la­tion. There is noth­ing for it but to drop him. He in­stant­ly gets him­self to­geth­er, backs over to Dur­dles, and cries to his as­sailant, gnash­ing the great gap in front of his mouth with rage and mal­ice:

‘I’ll blind yer, s’elp me! I’ll stone yer eyes out, s’elp me! If I don’t have yer eye­sight, bel­lows me!’ At the same time dodg­ing be­hind Dur­dles, and snarling at Jasper, now from this side of him, and now from that: pre­pared, if pounced upon, to dart away in all man­ner of curvi­lin­ear di­rec­tions, and, if run down after all, to grov­el in the dust, and cry: ‘Now, hit me when I’m down! Do it!’

‘Don’t hurt the boy, Mis­ter Jarsper,’ urges Dur­dles, shield­ing him. ‘Rec­ol­lect your­self.’

‘He fol­lowed us to-night, when we first came here!’

‘Yer lie, I didn’t!’ replies Deputy, in his one form of po­lite con­tra­dic­tion.

‘He has been prowl­ing near us ever since!’

‘Yer lie, I haven’t,’ re­turns Deputy. ‘I’d only jist come out for my ’elth when I see you two a-com­ing out of the Kin-freed­er­el. If

I—ket—ches—Im—out—ar—ter—ten!’

(with the usual rhythm and dance, though dodg­ing be­hind Dur­dles), ‘it ain’t any fault, is it?’

‘Take him home, then,’ re­torts Jasper, fe­ro­cious­ly, though with a strong check upon him­self, ‘and let my eyes be rid of the sight of you!’

Deputy, with an­oth­er sharp whis­tle, at once ex­press­ing his re­lief, and his com­mence­ment of a milder ston­ing of Mr. Dur­dles, be­gins ston­ing that re­spectable gen­tle­man home, as if he were a re­luc­tant ox. Mr. Jasper goes to his gate­house, brood­ing. And thus, as ev­ery­thing comes to an end, the un­ac­count­able ex­pe­di­tion comes to an end—for the time.


CHAP­TER XIII
BOTH AT THEIR BEST

Miss Twin­kle­ton’s es­tab­lish­ment was about to un­der­go a serene hush. The Christ­mas re­cess was at hand. What had once, and at no re­mote pe­ri­od, been called, even by the eru­dite Miss Twin­kle­ton her­self, ‘the half;’ but what was now called, as being more el­e­gant, and more strict­ly col­le­giate, ‘the term,’ would ex­pire to-mor­row. A no­tice­able re­lax­ation of dis­ci­pline had for some few days per­vad­ed the Nuns’ House. Club sup­pers had oc­curred in the bed­rooms, and a dressed tongue had been carved with a pair of scis­sors, and hand­ed round with the curl­ing tongs. Por­tions of mar­malade had like­wise been dis­tribut­ed on a ser­vice of plates con­struct­ed of curl­pa­per; and cowslip wine had been quaffed from the small squat mea­sur­ing glass in which lit­tle Rickitts (a ju­nior of weak­ly con­sti­tu­tion) took her steel drops daily. The house­maids had been bribed with var­i­ous frag­ments of riband, and sundry pairs of shoes more or less down at heel, to make no men­tion of crumbs in the beds; the airi­est cos­tumes had been worn on these fes­tive oc­ca­sions; and the dar­ing Miss Fer­di­nand had even sur­prised the com­pa­ny with a spright­ly solo on the comb-and-curl­pa­per, until suf­fo­cat­ed in her own pil­low by two flow­ing-haired ex­e­cu­tion­ers.

Nor were these the only to­kens of dis­per­sal. Boxes ap­peared in the bed­rooms (where they were cap­i­tal at other times), and a sur­pris­ing amount of pack­ing took place, out of all pro­por­tion to the amount packed. Largess, in the form of odds and ends of cold cream and po­ma­tum, and also of hair­pins, was freely dis­tribut­ed among the at­ten­dants. On charges of in­vi­o­lable se­cre­cy, con­fi­dences were in­ter­changed re­spect­ing gold­en youth of Eng­land ex­pect­ed to call, ‘at home,’ on the first op­por­tu­ni­ty. Miss Gig­gles (de­fi­cient in sen­ti­ment) did in­deed pro­fess that she, for her part, ac­knowl­edged such homage by mak­ing faces at the gold­en youth; but this young lady was out­vot­ed by an im­mense ma­jor­i­ty.

On the last night be­fore a re­cess, it was al­ways ex­press­ly made a point of hon­our that no­body should go to sleep, and that Ghosts should be en­cour­aged by all pos­si­ble means. This com­pact in­vari­ably broke down, and all the young ladies went to sleep very soon, and got up very early.

The con­clud­ing cer­e­mo­ny came off at twelve o’clock on the day of de­par­ture; when Miss Twin­kle­ton, sup­port­ed by Mrs. Tish­er, held a draw­ing-room in her own apart­ment (the globes al­ready cov­ered with brown Hol­land), where glass­es of white-wine and plates of cut pound-cake were dis­cov­ered on the table. Miss Twin­kle­ton then said: Ladies, an­oth­er re­volv­ing year had brought us round to that fes­tive pe­ri­od at which the first feel­ings of our na­ture bound­ed in our—Miss Twin­kle­ton was an­nu­al­ly going to add ‘bo­soms,’ but an­nu­al­ly stopped on the brink of that ex­pres­sion, and sub­sti­tut­ed ‘hearts.’ Hearts; our hearts. Hem! Again a re­volv­ing year, ladies, had brought us to a pause in our stud­ies—let us hope our great­ly ad­vanced stud­ies—and, like the mariner in his bark, the war­rior in his tent, the cap­tive in his dun­geon, and the trav­eller in his var­i­ous con­veyances, we yearned for home. Did we say, on such an oc­ca­sion, in the open­ing words of Mr. Ad­di­son’s im­pres­sive tragedy:

‘The dawn is over­cast, the morn­ing low­ers,

And heav­i­ly in clouds brings on the day,

The great, th’ im­por­tant day—?’

Not so. From hori­zon to zenith all was couleur de rose, for all was redo­lent of our re­la­tions and friends. Might we find them pros­per­ing as we ex­pect­ed; might they find us pros­per­ing as they ex­pect­ed! Ladies, we would now, with our love to one an­oth­er, wish one an­oth­er good-bye, and hap­pi­ness, until we met again. And when the time should come for our re­sump­tion of those pur­suits which (here a gen­er­al de­pres­sion set in all round), pur­suits which, pur­suits which;—then let us ever re­mem­ber what was said by the Spar­tan Gen­er­al, in words too trite for rep­e­ti­tion, at the bat­tle it were su­per­flu­ous to spec­i­fy.

The hand­maid­ens of the es­tab­lish­ment, in their best caps, then hand­ed the trays, and the young ladies sipped and crum­bled, and the be­spo­ken coach­es began to choke the street. Then leave-tak­ing was not long about; and Miss Twin­kle­ton, in salut­ing each young lady’s cheek, con­fid­ed to her an ex­ceed­ing­ly neat let­ter, ad­dressed to her next friend at law, ‘with Miss Twin­kle­ton’s best com­pli­ments’ in the cor­ner. This mis­sive she hand­ed with an air as if it had not the least con­nex­ion with the bill, but were some­thing in the na­ture of a del­i­cate and joy­ful sur­prise.

So many times had Rosa seen such dis­per­sals, and so very lit­tle did she know of any other Home, that she was con­tent­ed to re­main where she was, and was even bet­ter con­tent­ed than ever be­fore, hav­ing her lat­est friend with her. And yet her lat­est friend­ship had a blank place in it of which she could not fail to be sen­si­ble. He­le­na Land­less, hav­ing been a party to her broth­er’s rev­e­la­tion about Rosa, and hav­ing en­tered into that com­pact of si­lence with Mr. Crisparkle, shrank from any al­lu­sion to Edwin Drood’s name. Why she so avoid­ed it, was mys­te­ri­ous to Rosa, but she per­fect­ly per­ceived the fact. But for the fact, she might have re­lieved her own lit­tle per­plexed heart of some of its doubts and hes­i­ta­tions, by tak­ing He­le­na into her con­fi­dence. As it was, she had no such vent: she could only pon­der on her own dif­fi­cul­ties, and won­der more and more why this avoid­ance of Edwin’s name should last, now that she knew—for so much He­le­na had told her—that a good un­der­stand­ing was to be reësta­b­lished be­tween the two young men, when Edwin came down.

It would have made a pret­ty pic­ture, so many pret­ty girls kiss­ing Rosa in the cold porch of the Nuns’ House, and that sunny lit­tle crea­ture peep­ing out of it (un­con­scious of sly faces carved on spout and gable peep­ing at her), and wav­ing farewells to the de­part­ing coach­es, as if she rep­re­sent­ed the spir­it of rosy youth abid­ing in the place to keep it bright and warm in its de­ser­tion. The hoarse High Street be­came mu­si­cal with the cry, in var­i­ous sil­very voic­es, ‘Good-bye, Rose­bud dar­ling!’ and the ef­fi­gy of Mr. Sapsea’s fa­ther over the op­po­site door­way seemed to say to mankind: ‘Gen­tle­men, favour me with your at­ten­tion to this charm­ing lit­tle last lot left be­hind, and bid with a spir­it wor­thy of the oc­ca­sion!’ Then the staid street, so un­wont­ed­ly sparkling, youth­ful, and fresh for a few rip­pling mo­ments, ran dry, and Clois­ter­ham was it­self again.

If Rose­bud in her bower now wait­ed Edwin Drood’s com­ing with an un­easy heart, Edwin for his part was un­easy too. With far less force of pur­pose in his com­po­si­tion than the child­ish beau­ty, crowned by ac­cla­ma­tion fairy queen of Miss Twin­kle­ton’s es­tab­lish­ment, he had a con­science, and Mr. Grew­gious had pricked it. That gen­tle­man’s steady con­vic­tions of what was right and what was wrong in such a case as his, were nei­ther to be frowned aside nor laughed aside. They would not be moved. But for the din­ner in Sta­ple Inn, and but for the ring he car­ried in the breast pock­et of his coat, he would have drift­ed into their wed­ding-day with­out an­oth­er pause for real thought, loose­ly trust­ing that all would go well, left alone. But that se­ri­ous putting him on his truth to the liv­ing and the dead had brought him to a check. He must ei­ther give the ring to Rosa, or he must take it back. Once put into this nar­rowed way of ac­tion, it was cu­ri­ous that he began to con­sid­er Rosa’s claims upon him more un­selfish­ly than he had ever con­sid­ered them be­fore, and began to be less sure of him­self than he had ever been in all his easy-go­ing days.

‘I will be guid­ed by what she says, and by how we get on,’ was his de­ci­sion, walk­ing from the gate­house to the Nuns’ House. ‘What­ev­er comes of it, I will bear his words in mind, and try to be true to the liv­ing and the dead.’

Rosa was dressed for walk­ing. She ex­pect­ed him. It was a bright, frosty day, and Miss Twin­kle­ton had al­ready gra­cious­ly sanc­tioned fresh air. Thus they got out to­geth­er be­fore it be­came nec­es­sary for ei­ther Miss Twin­kle­ton, or the deputy high-priest Mrs. Tish­er, to lay even so much as one of those usual of­fer­ings on the shrine of Pro­pri­ety.

‘My dear Eddy,’ said Rosa, when they had turned out of the High Street, and had got among the quiet walks in the neigh­bour­hood of the Cathe­dral and the river: ‘I want to say some­thing very se­ri­ous to you. I have been think­ing about it for a long, long time.’

‘I want to be se­ri­ous with you too, Rosa dear. I mean to be se­ri­ous and earnest.’

‘Thank you, Eddy. And you will not think me un­kind be­cause I begin, will you? You will not think I speak for my­self only, be­cause I speak first? That would not be gen­er­ous, would it? And I know you are gen­er­ous!’

He said, ‘I hope I am not un­gen­er­ous to you, Rosa.’ He called her Pussy no more. Never again.

‘And there is no fear,’ pur­sued Rosa, ‘of our quar­relling, is there? Be­cause, Eddy,’ clasp­ing her hand on his arm, ‘we have so much rea­son to be very le­nient to each other!’

‘We will be, Rosa.’

‘That’s a dear good boy! Eddy, let us be coura­geous. Let us change to broth­er and sis­ter from this day forth.’

‘Never be hus­band and wife?’

‘Never!’

Nei­ther spoke again for a lit­tle while. But after that pause he said, with some ef­fort:

‘Of course I know that this has been in both our minds, Rosa, and of course I am in hon­our bound to con­fess freely that it does not orig­i­nate with you.’

‘No, nor with you, dear,’ she re­turned, with pa­thet­ic earnest­ness. ‘That sprung up be­tween us. You are not truly happy in our en­gage­ment; I am not truly happy in it. O, I am so sorry, so sorry!’ And there she broke into tears.

‘I am deeply sorry too, Rosa. Deeply sorry for you.’

‘And I for you, poor boy! And I for you!’

This pure young feel­ing, this gen­tle and for­bear­ing feel­ing of each to­wards the other, brought with it its re­ward in a soft­en­ing light that seemed to shine on their po­si­tion. The re­la­tions be­tween them did not look wil­ful, or capri­cious, or a fail­ure, in such a light; they be­came el­e­vat­ed into some­thing more self-deny­ing, hon­ourable, af­fec­tion­ate, and true.

‘If we knew yes­ter­day,’ said Rosa, as she dried her eyes, ‘and we did know yes­ter­day, and on many, many yes­ter­days, that we were far from right to­geth­er in those re­la­tions which were not of our own choos­ing, what bet­ter could we do to-day than change them? It is nat­u­ral that we should be sorry, and you see how sorry we both are; but how much bet­ter to be sorry now than then!’

‘When, Rosa?’

‘When it would be too late. And then we should be angry, be­sides.’

An­oth­er si­lence fell upon them.

‘And you know,’ said Rosa in­no­cent­ly, ‘you couldn’t like me then; and you can al­ways like me now, for I shall not be a drag upon you, or a worry to you. And I can al­ways like you now, and your sis­ter will not tease or tri­fle with you. I often did when I was not your sis­ter, and I beg your par­don for it.’

‘Don’t let us come to that, Rosa; or I shall want more par­don­ing than I like to think of.’

‘No, in­deed, Eddy; you are too hard, my gen­er­ous boy, upon your­self. Let us sit down, broth­er, on these ruins, and let me tell you how it was with us. I think I know, for I have con­sid­ered about it very much since you were here last time. You liked me, didn’t you? You thought I was a nice lit­tle thing?’

‘Ev­ery­body thinks that, Rosa.’

‘Do they?’ She knit­ted her brow mus­ing­ly for a mo­ment, and then flashed out with the bright lit­tle in­duc­tion: ‘Well, but say they do. Sure­ly it was not enough that you should think of me only as other peo­ple did; now, was it?’

The point was not to be got over. It was not enough.

‘And that is just what I mean; that is just how it was with us,’ said Rosa. ‘You liked me very well, and you had grown used to me, and had grown used to the idea of our being mar­ried. You ac­cept­ed the sit­u­a­tion as an in­evitable kind of thing, didn’t you? It was to be, you thought, and why dis­cuss or dis­pute it?’

It was new and strange to him to have him­self pre­sent­ed to him­self so clear­ly, in a glass of her hold­ing up. He had al­ways pa­tro­n­ised her, in his su­pe­ri­or­i­ty to her share of woman’s wit. Was that but an­oth­er in­stance of some­thing rad­i­cal­ly amiss in the terms on which they had been glid­ing to­wards a life-long bondage?

‘All this that I say of you is true of me as well, Eddy. Un­less it was, I might not be bold enough to say it. Only, the dif­fer­ence be­tween us was, that by lit­tle and lit­tle there crept into my mind a habit of think­ing about it, in­stead of dis­miss­ing it. My life is not so busy as yours, you see, and I have not so many things to think of. So I thought about it very much, and I cried about it very much too (though that was not your fault, poor boy); when all at once my guardian came down, to pre­pare for my leav­ing the Nuns’ House. I tried to hint to him that I was not quite set­tled in my mind, but I hes­i­tat­ed and failed, and he didn’t un­der­stand me. But he is a good, good man. And he put be­fore me so kind­ly, and yet so strong­ly, how se­ri­ous­ly we ought to con­sid­er, in our cir­cum­stances, that I re­solved to speak to you the next mo­ment we were alone and grave. And if I seemed to come to it eas­i­ly just now, be­cause I came to it all at once, don’t think it was so re­al­ly, Eddy, for O, it was very, very hard, and O, I am very, very sorry!’

Her full heart broke into tears again. He put his arm about her waist, and they walked by the riv­er-side to­geth­er.

‘Your guardian has spo­ken to me too, Rosa dear. I saw him be­fore I left Lon­don.’ His right hand was in his breast, seek­ing the ring; but he checked it, as he thought: ‘If I am to take it back, why should I tell her of it?’

‘And that made you more se­ri­ous about it, didn’t it, Eddy? And if I had not spo­ken to you, as I have, you would have spo­ken to me? I hope you can tell me so? I don’t like it to be all my doing, though it is so much bet­ter for us.’

‘Yes, I should have spo­ken; I should have put ev­ery­thing be­fore you; I came in­tend­ing to do it. But I never could have spo­ken to you as you have spo­ken to me, Rosa.’

‘Don’t say you mean so cold­ly or un­kind­ly, Eddy, please, if you can help it.’

‘I mean so sen­si­bly and del­i­cate­ly, so wise­ly and af­fec­tion­ate­ly.’

‘That’s my dear broth­er!’ She kissed his hand in a lit­tle rap­ture. ‘The dear girls will be dread­ful­ly dis­ap­point­ed,’ added Rosa, laugh­ing, with the dew­drops glis­ten­ing in her bright eyes. ‘They have looked for­ward to it so, poor pets!’

‘Ah! but I fear it will be a worse dis­ap­point­ment to Jack,’ said Edwin Drood, with a start. ‘I never thought of Jack!’

Her swift and in­tent look at him as he said the words could no more be re­called than a flash of light­ning can. But it ap­peared as though she would have in­stant­ly re­called it, if she could; for she looked down, con­fused, and breathed quick­ly.

‘You don’t doubt its being a blow to Jack, Rosa?’

She mere­ly replied, and that eva­sive­ly and hur­ried­ly: Why should she? She had not thought about it. He seemed, to her, to have so lit­tle to do with it.

‘My dear child! can you sup­pose that any one so wrapped up in an­oth­er—Mrs. Tope’s ex­pres­sion: not mine—as Jack is in me, could fail to be struck all of a heap by such a sud­den and com­plete change in my life? I say sud­den, be­cause it will be sud­den to him, you know.’

She nod­ded twice or thrice, and her lips part­ed as if she would have as­sent­ed. But she ut­tered no sound, and her breath­ing was no slow­er.

‘How shall I tell Jack?’ said Edwin, ru­mi­nat­ing. If he had been less oc­cu­pied with the thought, he must have seen her sin­gu­lar emo­tion. ‘I never thought of Jack. It must be bro­ken to him, be­fore the town-crier knows it. I dine with the dear fel­low to-mor­row and next day—Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day—but it would never do to spoil his feast-days. He al­ways wor­ries about me, and mod­dley-cod­dleys in the mer­est tri­fles. The news is sure to over­set him. How on earth shall this be bro­ken to Jack?’

‘He must be told, I sup­pose?’ said Rosa.

‘My dear Rosa! who ought to be in our con­fi­dence, if not Jack?’

‘My guardian promised to come down, if I should write and ask him. I am going to do so. Would you like to leave it to him?’

‘A bright idea!’ cried Edwin. ‘The other trustee. Noth­ing more nat­u­ral. He comes down, he goes to Jack, he re­lates what we have agreed upon, and he states our case bet­ter than we could. He has al­ready spo­ken feel­ing­ly to you, he has al­ready spo­ken feel­ing­ly to me, and he’ll put the whole thing feel­ing­ly to Jack. That’s it! I am not a cow­ard, Rosa, but to tell you a se­cret, I am a lit­tle afraid of Jack.’

‘No, no! you are not afraid of him!’ cried Rosa, turn­ing white, and clasp­ing her hands.

‘Why, sis­ter Rosa, sis­ter Rosa, what do you see from the tur­ret?’ said Edwin, ral­ly­ing her. ‘My dear girl!’

‘You fright­ened me.’

‘Most un­in­ten­tion­al­ly, but I am as sorry as if I had meant to do it. Could you pos­si­bly sup­pose for a mo­ment, from any loose way of speak­ing of mine, that I was lit­er­al­ly afraid of the dear fond fel­low? What I mean is, that he is sub­ject to a kind of parox­ysm, or fit—I saw him in it once—and I don’t know but that so great a sur­prise, com­ing upon him di­rect from me whom he is so wrapped up in, might bring it on per­haps. Which—and this is the se­cret I was going to tell you—is an­oth­er rea­son for your guardian’s mak­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. He is so steady, pre­cise, and exact, that he will talk Jack’s thoughts into shape, in no time: where­as with me Jack is al­ways im­pul­sive and hur­ried, and, I may say, al­most wom­an­ish.’

Rosa seemed con­vinced. Per­haps from her own very dif­fer­ent point of view of ‘Jack,’ she felt com­fort­ed and pro­tect­ed by the in­ter­po­si­tion of Mr. Grew­gious be­tween her­self and him.

And now, Edwin Drood’s right hand closed again upon the ring in its lit­tle case, and again was checked by the con­sid­er­a­tion: ‘It is cer­tain, now, that I am to give it back to him; then why should I tell her of it?’ That pret­ty sym­pa­thet­ic na­ture which could be so sorry for him in the blight of their child­ish hopes of hap­pi­ness to­geth­er, and could so qui­et­ly find it­self alone in a new world to weave fresh wreaths of such flow­ers as it might prove to bear, the old world’s flow­ers being with­ered, would be grieved by those sor­row­ful jew­els; and to what pur­pose? Why should it be? They were but a sign of bro­ken joys and base­less pro­jects; in their very beau­ty they were (as the un­like­li­est of men had said) al­most a cruel satire on the loves, hopes, plans, of hu­man­i­ty, which are able to fore­cast noth­ing, and are so much brit­tle dust. Let them be. He would re­store them to her guardian when he came down; he in his turn would re­store them to the cab­i­net from which he had un­will­ing­ly taken them; and there, like old let­ters or old vows, or other records of old as­pi­ra­tions come to noth­ing, they would be dis­re­gard­ed, until, being valu­able, they were sold into cir­cu­la­tion again, to re­peat their for­mer round.

Let them be. Let them lie un­spo­ken of, in his breast. How­ev­er dis­tinct­ly or in­dis­tinct­ly he en­ter­tained these thoughts, he ar­rived at the con­clu­sion, Let them be. Among the mighty store of won­der­ful chains that are for ever forg­ing, day and night, in the vast iron-works of time and cir­cum­stance, there was one chain forged in the mo­ment of that small con­clu­sion, riv­et­ed to the foun­da­tions of heav­en and earth, and gift­ed with in­vin­ci­ble force to hold and drag.

They walked on by the river. They began to speak of their sep­a­rate plans. He would quick­en his de­par­ture from Eng­land, and she would re­main where she was, at least as long as He­le­na re­mained. The poor dear girls should have their dis­ap­point­ment bro­ken to them gen­tly, and, as the first pre­lim­i­nary, Miss Twin­kle­ton should be con­fid­ed in by Rosa, even in ad­vance of the reap­pear­ance of Mr. Grew­gious. It should be made clear in all quar­ters that she and Edwin were the best of friends. There had never been so serene an un­der­stand­ing be­tween them since they were first af­fi­anced. And yet there was one reser­va­tion on each side; on hers, that she in­tend­ed through her guardian to with­draw her­self im­me­di­ate­ly from the tu­ition of her mu­sic-mas­ter; on his, that he did al­ready en­ter­tain some wan­der­ing spec­u­la­tions whether it might ever come to pass that he would know more of Miss Land­less.

The bright, frosty day de­clined as they walked and spoke to­geth­er. The sun dipped in the river far be­hind them, and the old city lay red be­fore them, as their walk drew to a close. The moan­ing water cast its sea­weed duski­ly at their feet, when they turned to leave its mar­gin; and the rooks hov­ered above them with hoarse cries, dark­er splash­es in the dark­en­ing air.

‘I will pre­pare Jack for my flit­ting soon,’ said Edwin, in a low voice, ‘and I will but see your guardian when he comes, and then go be­fore they speak to­geth­er. It will be bet­ter done with­out my being by. Don’t you think so?’

‘Yes.’

‘We know we have done right, Rosa?’

‘Yes.’

‘We know we are bet­ter so, even now?’

‘And shall be far, far bet­ter so by-and-by.’

Still there was that lin­ger­ing ten­der­ness in their hearts to­wards the old po­si­tions they were re­lin­quish­ing, that they pro­longed their part­ing. When they came among the elm-trees by the Cathe­dral, where they had last sat to­geth­er, they stopped as by con­sent, and Rosa raised her face to his, as she had never raised it in the old days;—for they were old al­ready.

‘God bless you, dear! Good-bye!’

‘God bless you, dear! Good-bye!’

They kissed each other fer­vent­ly.

‘Now, please take me home, Eddy, and let me be by my­self.’

‘Don’t look round, Rosa,’ he cau­tioned her, as he drew her arm through his, and led her away. ‘Didn’t you see Jack?’

‘No! Where?’

‘Under the trees. He saw us, as we took leave of each other. Poor fel­low! he lit­tle thinks we have part­ed. This will be a blow to him, I am much afraid!’

She hur­ried on, with­out rest­ing, and hur­ried on until they had passed under the gate­house into the street; once there, she asked:

‘Has he fol­lowed us? You can look with­out seem­ing to. Is he be­hind?’

‘No. Yes, he is! He has just passed out under the gate­way. The dear, sym­pa­thet­ic old fel­low likes to keep us in sight. I am afraid he will be bit­ter­ly dis­ap­point­ed!’

She pulled hur­ried­ly at the han­dle of the hoarse old bell, and the gate soon opened. Be­fore going in, she gave him one last, wide, won­der­ing look, as if she would have asked him with im­plor­ing em­pha­sis: ‘O! don’t you un­der­stand?’ And out of that look he van­ished from her view.


CHAP­TER XIV
WHEN SHALL THESE THREE MEET AGAIN?

Christ­mas Eve in Clois­ter­ham. A few strange faces in the streets; a few other faces, half strange and half fa­mil­iar, once the faces of Clois­ter­ham chil­dren, now the faces of men and women who come back from the outer world at long in­ter­vals to find the city won­der­ful­ly shrunk­en in size, as if it had not washed by any means well in the mean­while. To these, the strik­ing of the Cathe­dral clock, and the caw­ing of the rooks from the Cathe­dral tower, are like voic­es of their nurs­ery time. To such as these, it has hap­pened in their dying hours afar off, that they have imag­ined their cham­ber-floor to be strewn with the au­tum­nal leaves fall­en from the elm-trees in the Close: so have the rustling sounds and fresh scents of their ear­li­est im­pres­sions re­vived when the cir­cle of their lives was very near­ly traced, and the be­gin­ning and the end were draw­ing close to­geth­er.

Sea­son­able to­kens are about. Red berries shine here and there in the lat­tices of Minor Canon Cor­ner; Mr. and Mrs. Tope are dain­ti­ly stick­ing sprigs of holly into the carv­ings and sconces of the Cathe­dral stalls, as if they were stick­ing them into the coat-but­ton-holes of the Dean and Chap­ter. Lav­ish pro­fu­sion is in the shops: par­tic­u­lar­ly in the ar­ti­cles of cur­rants, raisins, spices, can­died peel, and moist sugar. An un­usu­al air of gal­lantry and dis­si­pa­tion is abroad; evinced in an im­mense bunch of mistle­toe hang­ing in the green­gro­cer’s shop door­way, and a poor lit­tle Twelfth Cake, cul­mi­nat­ing in the fig­ure of a Harlequin—such a very poor lit­tle Twelfth Cake, that one would rather called it a Twen­ty-fourth Cake or a Forty-eighth Cake—to be raf­fled for at the pas­trycook’s, terms one shilling per mem­ber. Pub­lic amuse­ments are not want­ing. The Wax-Work which made so deep an im­pres­sion on the re­flec­tive mind of the Em­per­or of China is to be seen by par­tic­u­lar de­sire dur­ing Christ­mas Week only, on the premis­es of the bankrupt liv­ery-sta­ble-keep­er up the lane; and a new grand comic Christ­mas pan­tomime is to be pro­duced at the The­atre: the lat­ter her­ald­ed by the por­trait of Sig­nor Jack­soni­ni the clown, say­ing ‘How do you do to-mor­row?’ quite as large as life, and al­most as mis­er­ably. In short, Clois­ter­ham is up and doing: though from this de­scrip­tion the High School and Miss Twin­kle­ton’s are to be ex­clud­ed. From the for­mer es­tab­lish­ment the schol­ars have gone home, every one of them in love with one of Miss Twin­kle­ton’s young ladies (who knows noth­ing about it); and only the hand­maid­ens flut­ter oc­ca­sion­al­ly in the win­dows of the lat­ter. It is no­ticed, by the bye, that these damsels be­come, with­in the lim­its of deco­rum, more skit­tish when thus in­trust­ed with the con­crete rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their sex, than when di­vid­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion with Miss Twin­kle­ton’s young ladies.

Three are to meet at the gate­house to-night. How does each one of the three get through the day?

Neville Land­less, though ab­solved from his books for the time by Mr. Crisparkle—whose fresh na­ture is by no means in­sen­si­ble to the charms of a hol­i­day—reads and writes in his quiet room, with a con­cen­trat­ed air, until it is two hours past noon. He then sets him­self to clear­ing his table, to ar­rang­ing his books, and to tear­ing up and burn­ing his stray pa­pers. He makes a clean sweep of all un­tidy ac­cu­mu­la­tions, puts all his draw­ers in order, and leaves no note or scrap of paper un­de­stroyed, save such mem­o­ran­da as bear di­rect­ly on his stud­ies. This done, he turns to his wardrobe, se­lects a few ar­ti­cles of or­di­nary wear—among them, change of stout shoes and socks for walk­ing—and packs these in a knap­sack. This knap­sack is new, and he bought it in the High Street yes­ter­day. He also pur­chased, at the same time and at the same place, a heavy walk­ing-stick; strong in the han­dle for the grip of the hand, and iron-shod. He tries this, swings it, pois­es it, and lays it by, with the knap­sack, on a win­dow-seat. By this time his ar­range­ments are com­plete.

He dress­es for going out, and is in the act of going—in­deed has left his room, and has met the Minor Canon on the stair­case, com­ing out of his bed­room upon the same story—when he turns back again for his walk­ing-stick, think­ing he will carry it now. Mr. Crisparkle, who has paused on the stair­case, sees it in his hand on his im­me­di­ate­ly reap­pear­ing, takes it from him, and asks him with a smile how he choos­es a stick?

‘Re­al­ly I don’t know that I un­der­stand the sub­ject,’ he an­swers. ‘I chose it for its weight.’

‘Much too heavy, Neville; much too heavy.’

‘To rest upon in a long walk, sir?’

‘Rest upon?’ re­peats Mr. Crisparkle, throw­ing him­self into pedes­tri­an form. ‘You don’t rest upon it; you mere­ly bal­ance with it.’

‘I shall know bet­ter, with prac­tice, sir. I have not lived in a walk­ing coun­try, you know.’

‘True,’ says Mr. Crisparkle. ‘Get into a lit­tle train­ing, and we will have a few score miles to­geth­er. I should leave you nowhere now. Do you come back be­fore din­ner?’

‘I think not, as we dine early.’

Mr. Crisparkle gives him a bright nod and a cheer­ful good-bye; ex­press­ing (not with­out in­ten­tion) ab­so­lute con­fi­dence and ease.

Neville re­pairs to the Nuns’ House, and re­quests that Miss Land­less may be in­formed that her broth­er is there, by ap­point­ment. He waits at the gate, not even cross­ing the thresh­old; for he is on his pa­role not to put him­self in Rosa’s way.

His sis­ter is at least as mind­ful of the obli­ga­tion they have taken on them­selves as he can be, and loses not a mo­ment in join­ing him. They meet af­fec­tion­ate­ly, avoid lin­ger­ing there, and walk to­wards the upper in­land coun­try.

‘I am not going to tread upon for­bid­den ground, He­le­na,’ says Neville, when they have walked some dis­tance and are turn­ing; ‘you will un­der­stand in an­oth­er mo­ment that I can­not help re­fer­ring to—what shall I say?—my in­fat­u­a­tion.’

‘Had you not bet­ter avoid it, Neville? You know that I can hear noth­ing.’

‘You can hear, my dear, what Mr. Crisparkle has heard, and heard with ap­proval.’

‘Yes; I can hear so much.’

‘Well, it is this. I am not only un­set­tled and un­hap­py my­self, but I am con­scious of un­set­tling and in­ter­fer­ing with other peo­ple. How do I know that, but for my un­for­tu­nate pres­ence, you, and—and—the rest of that for­mer party, our en­gag­ing guardian ex­cept­ed, might be din­ing cheer­ful­ly in Minor Canon Cor­ner to-mor­row? In­deed it prob­a­bly would be so. I can see too well that I am not high in the old lady’s opin­ion, and it is easy to un­der­stand what an irk­some clog I must be upon the hos­pi­tal­i­ties of her or­der­ly house—es­pe­cial­ly at this time of year—when I must be kept asun­der from this per­son, and there is such a rea­son for my not being brought into con­tact with that per­son, and an un­favourable rep­u­ta­tion has pre­ced­ed me with such an­oth­er per­son; and so on. I have put this very gen­tly to Mr. Crisparkle, for you know his self-deny­ing ways; but still I have put it. What I have laid much greater stress upon at the same time is, that I am en­gaged in a mis­er­able strug­gle with my­self, and that a lit­tle change and ab­sence may en­able me to come through it the bet­ter. So, the weath­er being bright and hard, I am going on a walk­ing ex­pe­di­tion, and in­tend tak­ing my­self out of ev­ery­body’s way (my own in­clud­ed, I hope) to-mor­row morn­ing.’

‘When to come back?’

‘In a fort­night.’

‘And going quite alone?’

‘I am much bet­ter with­out com­pa­ny, even if there were any one but you to bear me com­pa­ny, my dear He­le­na.’

‘Mr. Crisparkle en­tire­ly agrees, you say?’

‘En­tire­ly. I am not sure but that at first he was in­clined to think it rather a moody scheme, and one that might do a brood­ing mind harm. But we took a moon­light walk last Mon­day night, to talk it over at leisure, and I rep­re­sent­ed the case to him as it re­al­ly is. I showed him that I do want to con­quer my­self, and that, this evening well got over, it is sure­ly bet­ter that I should be away from here just now, than here. I could hard­ly help meet­ing cer­tain peo­ple walk­ing to­geth­er here, and that could do no good, and is cer­tain­ly not the way to for­get. A fort­night hence, that chance will prob­a­bly be over, for the time; and when it again aris­es for the last time, why, I can again go away. Far­ther, I re­al­ly do feel hope­ful of brac­ing ex­er­cise and whole­some fa­tigue. You know that Mr. Crisparkle al­lows such things their full weight in the preser­va­tion of his own sound mind in his own sound body, and that his just spir­it is not like­ly to main­tain one set of nat­u­ral laws for him­self and an­oth­er for me. He yield­ed to my view of the mat­ter, when con­vinced that I was hon­est­ly in earnest; and so, with his full con­sent, I start to-mor­row morn­ing. Early enough to be not only out of the streets, but out of hear­ing of the bells, when the good peo­ple go to church.’

He­le­na thinks it over, and thinks well of it. Mr. Crisparkle doing so, she would do so; but she does orig­i­nal­ly, out of her own mind, think well of it, as a healthy pro­ject, de­not­ing a sin­cere en­deav­our and an ac­tive at­tempt at self-cor­rec­tion. She is in­clined to pity him, poor fel­low, for going away soli­tary on the great Christ­mas fes­ti­val; but she feels it much more to the pur­pose to en­cour­age him. And she does en­cour­age him.

He will write to her?

He will write to her every al­ter­nate day, and tell her all his ad­ven­tures.

Does he send clothes on in ad­vance of him?

‘My dear He­le­na, no. Trav­el like a pil­grim, with wal­let and staff. My wal­let—or my knap­sack—is packed, and ready for strap­ping on; and here is my staff!’

He hands it to her; she makes the same re­mark as Mr. Crisparkle, that it is very heavy; and gives it back to him, ask­ing what wood it is? Iron-wood.

Up to this point he has been ex­treme­ly cheer­ful. Per­haps, the hav­ing to carry his case with her, and there­fore to pre­sent it in its bright­est as­pect, has roused his spir­its. Per­haps, the hav­ing done so with suc­cess, is fol­lowed by a re­vul­sion. As the day clos­es in, and the city-lights begin to spring up be­fore them, he grows de­pressed.

‘I wish I were not going to this din­ner, He­le­na.’

‘Dear Neville, is it worth while to care much about it? Think how soon it will be over.’

‘How soon it will be over!’ he re­peats gloomi­ly. ‘Yes. But I don’t like it.’

There may be a mo­ment’s awk­ward­ness, she cheer­ing­ly rep­re­sents to him, but it can only last a mo­ment. He is quite sure of him­self.

‘I wish I felt as sure of ev­ery­thing else, as I feel of my­self,’ he an­swers her.

‘How strange­ly you speak, dear! What do you mean?’

‘He­le­na, I don’t know. I only know that I don’t like it. What a strange dead weight there is in the air!’

She calls his at­ten­tion to those cop­per­ous clouds be­yond the river, and says that the wind is ris­ing. He scarce­ly speaks again, until he takes leave of her, at the gate of the Nuns’ House. She does not im­me­di­ate­ly enter, when they have part­ed, but re­mains look­ing after him along the street. Twice he pass­es the gate­house, re­luc­tant to enter. At length, the Cathe­dral clock chim­ing one quar­ter, with a rapid turn he hur­ries in.

And so he goes up the postern stair.

Edwin Drood pass­es a soli­tary day. Some­thing of deep­er mo­ment than he had thought, has 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. It is with some mis­giv­ing of his own un­wor­thi­ness that he thinks of her, and of what they might have been to one an­oth­er, if he had been more in earnest some time ago; if he had set a high­er value on her; if, in­stead of ac­cept­ing his lot in life as an in­her­i­tance of course, he had stud­ied the right way to its ap­pre­ci­a­tion and en­hance­ment. And still, for all this, and though there is a sharp heartache in all this, the van­i­ty and caprice of youth sus­tain that hand­some fig­ure of Miss Land­less in the back­ground of his mind.

That was a cu­ri­ous look of Rosa’s when they part­ed at the gate. Did it mean that she saw below the sur­face of his thoughts, and down into their twi­light depths? Scarce­ly that, for it was a look of as­ton­ished and keen in­quiry. He de­cides that he can­not un­der­stand it, though it was re­mark­ably ex­pres­sive.

As he only waits for Mr. Grew­gious now, and will de­part im­me­di­ate­ly after hav­ing seen him, he takes a saun­ter­ing leave of the an­cient city and its neigh­bour­hood. He re­calls the time when Rosa and he walked here or there, mere chil­dren, full of the dig­ni­ty of being en­gaged. Poor chil­dren! he thinks, with a pity­ing sad­ness.

Find­ing that his watch has stopped, he turns into the jew­eller’s shop, to have it wound and set. The jew­eller is know­ing on the sub­ject of a bracelet, which he begs leave to sub­mit, in a gen­er­al and quite aim­less way. It would suit (he con­sid­ers) a young bride, to per­fec­tion; es­pe­cial­ly if of a rather diminu­tive style of beau­ty. Find­ing the bracelet but cold­ly looked at, the jew­eller in­vites at­ten­tion to a tray of rings for gen­tle­men; here is a style of ring, now, he re­marks—a very chaste signet—which gen­tle­men are much given to pur­chas­ing, when chang­ing their con­di­tion. A ring of a very re­spon­si­ble ap­pear­ance. With the date of their wed­ding-day en­graved in­side, sev­er­al gen­tle­men have pre­ferred it to any other kind of me­men­to.

The rings are as cold­ly viewed as the bracelet. Edwin tells the tempter that he wears no jew­ellery but his watch and chain, which were his fa­ther’s; and his shirt-pin.

‘That I was aware of,’ is the jew­eller’s reply, ‘for Mr. Jasper dropped in for a watch-glass the other day, and, in fact, I showed these ar­ti­cles to him, re­mark­ing that if he should wish to make a pre­sent to a gen­tle­man rel­a­tive, on any par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion—But he said with a smile that he had an in­ven­to­ry in his mind of all the jew­ellery his gen­tle­man rel­a­tive ever wore; name­ly, his watch and chain, and his shirt-pin.’ Still (the jew­eller con­sid­ers) that might not apply to all times, though ap­ply­ing to the pre­sent time. ‘Twen­ty min­utes past two, Mr. Drood, I set your watch at. Let me rec­om­mend you not to let it run down, sir.’

Edwin takes his watch, puts it on, and goes out, think­ing: ‘Dear old Jack! If I were to make an extra crease in my neck­cloth, he would think it worth notic­ing!’

He strolls about and about, to pass the time until the din­ner-hour. It some­how hap­pens that Clois­ter­ham seems re­proach­ful to him to-day; has fault to find with him, as if he had not used it well; but is far more pen­sive with him than angry. His wont­ed care­less­ness is re­placed by a wist­ful look­ing at, and dwelling upon, all the old land­marks. He will soon be far away, and may never see them again, he thinks. Poor youth! Poor youth!

As dusk draws on, he paces the Monks’ Vine­yard. He has walked to and fro, full half an hour by the Cathe­dral chimes, and it has closed in dark, be­fore he be­comes quite aware of a woman crouch­ing on the ground near a wick­et gate in a cor­ner. The gate com­mands a cross bye-path, lit­tle used in the gloam­ing; and the fig­ure must have been there all the time, though he has but grad­u­al­ly and late­ly made it out.

He strikes into that path, and walks up to the wick­et. By the light of a lamp near it, he sees that the woman is of a hag­gard ap­pear­ance, and that her weazen chin is rest­ing on her hands, and that her eyes are star­ing—with an un­wink­ing, blind sort of stead­fast­ness—be­fore her.

Al­ways kind­ly, but moved to be un­usu­al­ly kind this evening, and hav­ing be­stowed kind words on most of the chil­dren and aged peo­ple he has met, he at once bends down, and speaks to this woman.

‘Are you ill?’

‘No, deary,’ she an­swers, with­out look­ing at him, and with no de­par­ture from her strange blind stare.

‘Are you blind?’

‘No, deary.’

‘Are you lost, home­less, faint? What is the mat­ter, that you stay here in the cold so long, with­out mov­ing?’

By slow and stiff ef­forts, she ap­pears to con­tract her vi­sion until it can rest upon him; and then a cu­ri­ous film pass­es over her, and she be­gins to shake.

He straight­ens him­self, re­coils a step, and looks down at her in a dread amaze­ment; for he seems to know her.

‘Good Heav­en!’ he thinks, next mo­ment. ‘Like Jack that night!’

As he looks down at her, she looks up at him, and whim­pers: ‘My lungs is weak­ly; my lungs is dr­ef­fle bad. Poor me, poor me, my cough is rat­tling dry!’ and coughs in con­fir­ma­tion hor­ri­bly.

‘Where do you come from?’

‘Come from Lon­don, deary.’ (Her cough still rend­ing her.)

‘Where are you going to?’

‘Back to Lon­don, deary. I came here, look­ing for a nee­dle in a haystack, and I ain’t found it. Look’ee, deary; give me three-and-six­pence, and don’t you be afeard for me. I’ll get back to Lon­don then, and trou­ble no one. I’m in a busi­ness.—Ah, me! It’s slack, it’s slack, and times is very bad!—but I can make a shift to live by it.’

‘Do you eat opium?’

‘Smokes it,’ she replies with dif­fi­cul­ty, still racked by her cough. ‘Give me three-and-six­pence, and I’ll lay it out well, and get back. If you don’t give me three-and-six­pence, don’t give me a brass far­den. And if you do give me three-and-six­pence, deary, I’ll tell you some­thing.’

He counts the money from his pock­et, and puts it in her hand. She in­stant­ly clutch­es it tight, and rises to her feet with a croak­ing laugh of sat­is­fac­tion.

‘Bless ye! Hark’ee, dear genl’mn. What’s your Chris’en name?’

‘Edwin.’

‘Edwin, Edwin, Edwin,’ she re­peats, trail­ing off into a drowsy rep­e­ti­tion of the word; and then asks sud­den­ly: ‘Is the short of that name Eddy?’

‘It is some­times called so,’ he replies, with the colour start­ing to his face.

‘Don’t sweet­hearts call it so?’ she asks, pon­der­ing.

‘How should I know?’

‘Haven’t you a sweet­heart, upon your soul?’

‘None.’

She is mov­ing away, with an­oth­er ‘Bless ye, and thank’ee, deary!’ when he adds: ‘You were to tell me some­thing; you may as well do so.’

‘So I was, so I was. Well, then. Whis­per. You be thank­ful that your name ain’t Ned.’

He looks at her quite steadi­ly, as he asks: ‘Why?’

‘Be­cause it’s a bad name to have just now.’

‘How a bad name?’

‘A threat­ened name. A dan­ger­ous name.’

‘The proverb says that threat­ened men live long,’ he tells her, light­ly.

‘Then Ned—so threat­ened is he, wher­ev­er he may be while I am a-talk­ing to you, deary—should live to all eter­ni­ty!’ replies the woman.

She has leaned for­ward to say it in his ear, with her fore­fin­ger shak­ing be­fore his eyes, and now hud­dles her­self to­geth­er, and with an­oth­er ‘Bless ye, and thank’ee!’ goes away in the di­rec­tion of the Trav­ellers’ Lodg­ing House.

This is not an in­spir­it­ing close to a dull day. Alone, in a se­questered place, sur­round­ed by ves­tiges of old time and decay, it rather has a ten­den­cy to call a shud­der into being. He makes for the bet­ter-light­ed streets, and re­solves as he walks on to say noth­ing of this to-night, but to men­tion it to Jack (who alone calls him Ned), as an odd co­in­ci­dence, to-mor­row; of course only as a co­in­ci­dence, and not as any­thing bet­ter worth re­mem­ber­ing.

Still, it holds to him, as many things much bet­ter worth re­mem­ber­ing never did. He has an­oth­er mile or so, to linger out be­fore the din­ner-hour; and, when he walks over the bridge and by the river, the woman’s words are in the ris­ing wind, in the angry sky, in the trou­bled water, in the flick­er­ing lights. There is some solemn echo of them even in the Cathe­dral chime, which strikes a sud­den sur­prise to his heart as he turns in under the arch­way of the gate­house.

And so he goes up the postern stair.

John Jasper pass­es a more agree­able and cheer­ful day than ei­ther of his guests. Hav­ing no mu­sic-lessons to give in the hol­i­day sea­son, his time is his own, but for the Cathe­dral ser­vices. He is early among the shop­keep­ers, or­der­ing lit­tle table lux­u­ries that his nephew likes. His nephew will not be with him long, he tells his pro­vi­sion-deal­ers, and so must be pet­ted and made much of. While out on his hos­pitable prepa­ra­tions, he looks in on Mr. Sapsea; and men­tions that dear Ned, and that in­flammable young spark of Mr. Crisparkle’s, are to dine at the gate­house to-day, and make up their dif­fer­ence. Mr. Sapsea is by no means friend­ly to­wards the in­flammable young spark. He says 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.

John Jasper is truly sorry to hear Mr. Sapsea speak thus, for he knows right well that Mr. Sapsea never speaks with­out a mean­ing, and that he has a sub­tle trick of being right. Mr. Sapsea (by a very re­mark­able co­in­ci­dence) is of ex­act­ly that opin­ion.

Mr. Jasper is in beau­ti­ful voice this day. In the pa­thet­ic sup­pli­ca­tion to have his heart in­clined to keep this law, he quite as­ton­ish­es his fel­lows by his melo­di­ous power. He has never sung dif­fi­cult music with such skill and har­mo­ny, as in this day’s An­them. His ner­vous tem­per­a­ment is oc­ca­sion­al­ly prone to take dif­fi­cult music a lit­tle too quick­ly; to-day, his time is per­fect.

These re­sults are prob­a­bly at­tained through a grand com­po­sure of the spir­its. The mere mech­a­nism of his throat is a lit­tle ten­der, for he wears, both with his singing-robe and with his or­di­nary dress, a large black scarf of strong close-wo­ven silk, slung loose­ly round his neck. But his com­po­sure is so no­tice­able, that Mr. Crisparkle speaks of it as they come out from Ves­pers.

‘I must thank you, Jasper, for the plea­sure with which I have heard you to-day. Beau­ti­ful! De­light­ful! You could not have so out­done your­self, I hope, with­out being won­der­ful­ly well.’

‘I am won­der­ful­ly well.’

‘Noth­ing un­equal,’ says the Minor Canon, with a smooth mo­tion of his hand: ‘noth­ing un­steady, noth­ing forced, noth­ing avoid­ed; all thor­ough­ly done in a mas­ter­ly man­ner, with per­fect self-com­mand.’

‘Thank you. I hope so, if it is not too much to say.’

‘One would think, Jasper, you had been try­ing a new medicine for that oc­ca­sion­al in­dis­po­si­tion of yours.’

‘No, re­al­ly? That’s well ob­served; for I have.’

‘Then stick to it, my good fel­low,’ says Mr. Crisparkle, clap­ping him on the shoul­der with friend­ly en­cour­age­ment, ‘stick to it.’

‘I will.’

‘I con­grat­u­late you,’ Mr. Crisparkle pur­sues, as they come out of the Cathe­dral, ‘on all ac­counts.’

‘Thank you again. I will walk round to the Cor­ner with you, if you don’t ob­ject; I have plen­ty of time be­fore my com­pa­ny come; and I want to say a word to you, which I think you will not be dis­pleased to hear.’

‘What is it?’

‘Well. We were speak­ing, the other evening, of my black hu­mours.’

Mr. Crisparkle’s face falls, and he shakes his head de­plor­ing­ly.

‘I said, you know, that I should make you an an­ti­dote to those black hu­mours; and you said you hoped I would con­sign them to the flames.’

‘And I still hope so, Jasper.’

‘With the best rea­son in the world! I mean to burn this year’s Diary at the year’s end.’

‘Be­cause you—?’ Mr. Crisparkle bright­ens great­ly as he thus be­gins.

‘You an­tic­i­pate me. Be­cause I feel that I have been out of sorts, gloomy, bil­ious, brain-op­pressed, what­ev­er it may be. You said I had been ex­ag­ger­a­tive. So I have.’

Mr. Crisparkle’s bright­ened face bright­ens still more.

‘I couldn’t see it then, be­cause I was out of sorts; but I am in a health­i­er state now, and I ac­knowl­edge it with gen­uine plea­sure. I made a great deal of a very lit­tle; that’s the fact.’

‘It does me good,’ cries Mr. Crisparkle, ‘to hear you say it!’

‘A man lead­ing a monotonous life,’ Jasper pro­ceeds, ‘and get­ting his nerves, or his stom­ach, out of order, dwells upon an idea until it loses its pro­por­tions. That was my case with the idea in ques­tion. So I shall burn the ev­i­dence of my case, when the book is full, and begin the next vol­ume with a clear­er vi­sion.’

‘This is bet­ter,’ says Mr. Crisparkle, stop­ping at the steps of his own door to shake hands, ‘than I could have hoped.’

‘Why, nat­u­ral­ly,’ re­turns Jasper. ‘You had but lit­tle rea­son to hope that I should be­come more like your­self. You are al­ways train­ing your­self to be, mind and body, as clear as crys­tal, and you al­ways are, and never change; where­as I am a muddy, soli­tary, mop­ing weed. How­ev­er, I have got over that mope. Shall I wait, while you ask if Mr. Neville has left for my place? If not, he and I may walk round to­geth­er.’

‘I think,’ says Mr. Crisparkle, open­ing the en­trance-door with his key, ‘that he left some time ago; at least I know he left, and I think he has not come back. But I’ll in­quire. You won’t come in?’

‘My com­pa­ny wait,’ said Jasper, with a smile.

The Minor Canon dis­ap­pears, and in a few mo­ments re­turns. As he thought, Mr. Neville has not come back; in­deed, as he re­mem­bers now, Mr. Neville said he would prob­a­bly go straight to the gate­house.

‘Bad man­ners in a host!’ says Jasper. ‘My com­pa­ny will be there be­fore me! What will you bet that I don’t find my com­pa­ny em­brac­ing?’

‘I will bet—or I would, if ever I did bet,’ re­turns Mr. Crisparkle, ‘that your com­pa­ny will have a gay en­ter­tain­er this evening.’

Jasper nods, and laughs good-night!

He re­traces his steps to the Cathe­dral door, and turns down past it to the gate­house. He sings, in a low voice and with del­i­cate ex­pres­sion, as he walks along. It still seems as if a false note were not with­in his power to-night, and as if noth­ing could hurry or re­tard him. Ar­riv­ing thus under the arched en­trance of his dwelling, he paus­es for an in­stant in the shel­ter to pull off that great black scarf, and bang it in a loop upon his arm. For that brief time, his face is knit­ted and stern. But it im­me­di­ate­ly clears, as he re­sumes his singing, and his way.

And so he goes up the postern stair.

The red light burns steadi­ly all the evening in the light­house on the mar­gin of the tide of busy life. Soft­ened sounds and hum of traf­fic pass it and flow on ir­reg­u­lar­ly into the lone­ly Precincts; but very lit­tle else goes by, save vi­o­lent rush­es of wind. It comes on to blow a bois­ter­ous gale.

The Precincts are never par­tic­u­lar­ly well light­ed; but the strong blasts of wind blow­ing out many of the lamps (in some in­stances shat­ter­ing the frames too, and bring­ing the glass rat­tling to the ground), they are un­usu­al­ly dark to-night. The dark­ness is aug­ment­ed and con­fused, by fly­ing dust from the earth, dry twigs from the trees, and great ragged frag­ments from the rooks’ nests up in the tower. The trees them­selves so toss and creak, as this tan­gi­ble part of the dark­ness madly whirls about, that they seem in peril of being torn out of the earth: while ever and again a crack, and a rush­ing fall, de­note that some large branch has yield­ed to the storm.

Not such power of wind has blown for many a win­ter night. Chim­neys top­ple in the streets, and peo­ple hold to posts and cor­ners, and to one an­oth­er, to keep them­selves upon their feet. The vi­o­lent rush­es abate not, but in­crease in fre­quen­cy and fury until at mid­night, when the streets are empty, the storm goes thun­der­ing along them, rat­tling at all the latch­es, and tear­ing at all the shut­ters, as if warn­ing the peo­ple to get up and fly with it, rather than have the roofs brought down upon their brains.

Still, the red light burns steadi­ly. Noth­ing is steady but the red light.

All through the night the wind blows, and abates not. But early in the morn­ing, when there is bare­ly enough light in the east to dim the stars, it be­gins to lull. From that time, with oc­ca­sion­al wild charges, like a wound­ed mon­ster dying, it drops and sinks; and at full day­light it is dead.

It is then seen that the hands of the Cathe­dral clock are torn off; that lead from the roof has been stripped away, rolled up, and blown into the Close; and that some stones have been dis­placed upon the sum­mit of the great tower. Christ­mas morn­ing though it be, it is nec­es­sary to send up work­men, to as­cer­tain the ex­tent of the dam­age done. These, led by Dur­dles, go aloft; while Mr. Tope and a crowd of early idlers gath­er down in Minor Canon Cor­ner, shad­ing their eyes and watch­ing for their ap­pear­ance up there.

This clus­ter is sud­den­ly bro­ken and put aside by the hands of Mr. Jasper; all the gaz­ing eyes are brought down to the earth by his loud­ly in­quir­ing of Mr. Crisparkle, at an open win­dow:

‘Where is my nephew?’

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

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

‘He left this morn­ing, early.’

‘Left this morn­ing early? Let me in! let me in!’

There is no more look­ing up at the tower, now. All the as­sem­bled eyes are turned on Mr. Jasper, white, half-dressed, pant­ing, and cling­ing to the rail be­fore the Minor Canon’s house.


CHAP­TER XV
IM­PEACHED

Neville Land­less had start­ed so early and walked at so good a pace, that when the church-bells began to ring in Clois­ter­ham for morn­ing ser­vice, he was eight miles away. As he want­ed his break­fast by that time, hav­ing set forth on a crust of bread, he stopped at the next road­side tav­ern to re­fresh.

Vis­i­tors in want of break­fast—un­less they were hors­es or cat­tle, for which class of guests there was prepa­ra­tion enough in the way of wa­ter-trough and hay—were so un­usu­al at the sign of The Tilt­ed Wagon, that it took a long time to get the wagon into the track of tea and toast and bacon. Neville in the in­ter­val, sit­ting in a sand­ed par­lour, won­der­ing in how long a time after he had gone, the sneezy fire of damp fagots would begin to make some­body else warm.

In­deed, The Tilt­ed Wagon, as a cool es­tab­lish­ment on the top of a hill, where the ground be­fore the door was pud­dled with damp hoofs and trod­den straw; where a scold­ing land­la­dy slapped a moist baby (with one red sock on and one want­ing), in the bar; where the cheese was cast aground upon a shelf, in com­pa­ny with a mouldy table­cloth and a green-han­dled knife, in a sort of cast-iron canoe; where the pale-faced bread shed tears of crumb over its ship­wreck in an­oth­er canoe; where the fam­i­ly linen, half washed and half dried, led a pub­lic life of lying about; where ev­ery­thing to drink was drunk out of mugs, and ev­ery­thing else was sug­ges­tive of a rhyme to mugs; The Tilt­ed Wagon, all these things con­sid­ered, hard­ly kept its paint­ed promise of pro­vid­ing good en­ter­tain­ment for Man and Beast. How­ev­er, Man, in the pre­sent case, was not crit­i­cal, but took what en­ter­tain­ment he could get, and went on again after a longer rest than he need­ed.

He stopped at some quar­ter of a mile from the house, hes­i­tat­ing whether to pur­sue the road, or to fol­low a cart track be­tween two high hedgerows, which led across the slope of a breezy heath, and ev­i­dent­ly struck into the road again by-and-by. He de­cid­ed in favour of this lat­ter track, and pur­sued it with some toil; the rise being steep, and the way worn into deep ruts.

He was labour­ing along, when he be­came aware of some other pedes­tri­ans be­hind him. As they were com­ing up at a faster pace than his, he stood aside, against one of the high banks, to let them pass. But their man­ner was very cu­ri­ous. Only four of them passed. Other four slack­ened speed, and loi­tered as in­tend­ing to fol­low him when he should go on. The re­main­der of the party (half-a-dozen per­haps) turned, and went back at a great rate.

He looked at the four be­hind him, and he looked at the four be­fore him. They all re­turned his look. He re­sumed his way. The four in ad­vance went on, con­stant­ly look­ing back; the four in the rear came clos­ing up.

When they all ranged out from the nar­row track upon the open slope of the heath, and this order was main­tained, let him di­verge as he would to ei­ther side, there was no longer room to doubt that he was beset by these fel­lows. He stopped, as a last test; and they all stopped.

‘Why do you at­tend upon me in this way?’ he asked the whole body. ‘Are you a pack of thieves?’

‘Don’t an­swer him,’ said one of the num­ber; he did not see which. ‘Bet­ter be quiet.’

‘Bet­ter be quiet?’ re­peat­ed Neville. ‘Who said so?’

No­body replied.

‘It’s good ad­vice, whichev­er of you skulk­ers gave it,’ he went on an­gri­ly. ‘I will not sub­mit to be penned in be­tween four men there, and four men there. I wish to pass, and I mean to pass, those four in front.’

They were all stand­ing still; him­self in­clud­ed.

‘If eight men, or four men, or two men, set upon one,’ he pro­ceed­ed, grow­ing more en­raged, ‘the one has no chance but to set his mark upon some of them. And, by the Lord, I’ll do it, if I am in­ter­rupt­ed any far­ther!’

Shoul­der­ing his heavy stick, and quick­en­ing his pace, he shot on to pass the four ahead. The largest and strongest man of the num­ber changed swift­ly to the side on which he came up, and dex­ter­ous­ly closed with him and went down with him; but not be­fore the heavy stick had de­scend­ed smart­ly.

‘Let him be!’ said this man in a sup­pressed voice, as they strug­gled to­geth­er on the grass. ‘Fair play! His is the build of a girl to mine, and he’s got a weight strapped to his back be­sides. Let him alone. I’ll man­age him.’

After a lit­tle rolling about, in a close scuf­fle which caused the faces of both to be be­smeared with blood, the man took his knee from Neville’s chest, and rose, say­ing: ‘There! Now take him arm-in-arm, any two of you!’

It was im­me­di­ate­ly done.

‘As to our being a pack of thieves, Mr. Land­less,’ said the man, as he spat out some blood, and wiped more from his face; ‘you know bet­ter than that at mid­day. We wouldn’t have touched you if you hadn’t forced us. We’re going to take you round to the high road, any­how, and you’ll find help enough against thieves there, if you want it.—Wipe his face, some­body; see how it’s a-trick­ling down him!’

When his face was cleansed, Neville recog­nised in the speak­er, Joe, driv­er of the Clois­ter­ham om­nibus, whom he had seen but once, and that on the day of his ar­rival.

‘And what I rec­om­mend you for the pre­sent, is, don’t talk, Mr. Land­less. You’ll find a friend wait­ing for you, at the high road—gone ahead by the other way when we split into two par­ties—and you had much bet­ter say noth­ing till you come up with him. Bring that stick along, some­body else, and let’s be mov­ing!’

Ut­ter­ly be­wil­dered, Neville stared around him and said not a word. Walk­ing be­tween his two con­duc­tors, who held his arms in theirs, he went on, as in a dream, until they came again into the high road, and into the midst of a lit­tle group of peo­ple. The men who had turned back were among the group; and its cen­tral fig­ures were Mr. Jasper and Mr. Crisparkle. Neville’s con­duc­tors took him up to the Minor Canon, and there re­leased him, as an act of def­er­ence to that gen­tle­man.

‘What is all this, sir? What is the mat­ter? I feel as if I had lost my sens­es!’ cried Neville, the group clos­ing in around him.

‘Where is my nephew?’ asked Mr. Jasper, wild­ly.

‘Where is your nephew?’ re­peat­ed Neville, ‘Why do you ask me?’

‘I ask you,’ re­tort­ed Jasper, ‘be­cause you were the last per­son in his com­pa­ny, and he is not to be found.’

‘Not to be found!’ cried Neville, aghast.

‘Stay, stay,’ said Mr. Crisparkle. ‘Per­mit me, Jasper. Mr. Neville, you are con­found­ed; col­lect your thoughts; it is of great im­por­tance that you should col­lect your thoughts; at­tend to me.’

‘I will try, sir, but I seem mad.’

‘You left Mr. Jasper last night with Edwin Drood?’

‘Yes.’

‘At what hour?’

‘Was it at twelve o’clock?’ asked Neville, with his hand to his con­fused head, and ap­peal­ing to Jasper.

‘Quite right,’ said Mr. Crisparkle; ‘the hour Mr. Jasper has al­ready named to me. You went down to the river to­geth­er?’

‘Un­doubt­ed­ly. To see the ac­tion of the wind there.’

‘What fol­lowed? How long did you stay there?’

‘About ten min­utes; I should say not more. We then walked to­geth­er to your house, and he took leave of me at the door.’

‘Did he say that he was going down to the river again?’

‘No. He said that he was going straight back.’

The by­standers looked at one an­oth­er, and at Mr. Crisparkle. To whom Mr. Jasper, who had been in­tense­ly watch­ing Neville, said, in a low, dis­tinct, sus­pi­cious voice: ‘What are those stains upon his dress?’

All eyes were turned to­wards the blood upon his clothes.

‘And here are the same stains upon this stick!’ said Jasper, tak­ing it from the hand of the man who held it. ‘I know the stick to be his, and he car­ried it last night. What does this mean?’

‘In the name of God, say what it means, Neville!’ urged Mr. Crisparkle.

‘That man and I,’ said Neville, point­ing out his late ad­ver­sary, ‘had a strug­gle for the stick just now, and you may see the same marks on him, sir. What was I to sup­pose, when I found my­self mo­lest­ed by eight peo­ple? Could I dream of the true rea­son when they would give me none at all?’

They ad­mit­ted that they had thought it dis­creet to be silent, and that the strug­gle had taken place. And yet the very men who had seen it looked dark­ly at the smears which the bright cold air had al­ready dried.

‘We must re­turn, Neville,’ said Mr. Crisparkle; ‘of course you will be glad to come back to clear your­self?’

‘Of course, sir.’

‘Mr. Land­less will walk at my side,’ the Minor Canon con­tin­ued, look­ing around him. ‘Come, Neville!’

They set forth on the walk back; and the oth­ers, with one ex­cep­tion, strag­gled after them at var­i­ous dis­tances. Jasper walked on the other side of Neville, and never quit­ted that po­si­tion. He was silent, while Mr. Crisparkle more than once re­peat­ed his for­mer ques­tions, and while Neville re­peat­ed his for­mer an­swers; also, while they both haz­ard­ed some ex­plana­to­ry con­jec­tures. He was ob­sti­nate­ly silent, be­cause Mr. Crisparkle’s man­ner di­rect­ly ap­pealed to him to take some part in the dis­cus­sion, and no ap­peal would move his fixed face. When they drew near to the city, and it was sug­gest­ed by the Minor Canon that they might do well in call­ing on the Mayor at once, he as­sent­ed with a stern nod; but he spake no word until they stood in Mr. Sapsea’s par­lour.

Mr. Sapsea being in­formed by Mr. Crisparkle of the cir­cum­stances under which they de­sired to make a vol­un­tary state­ment be­fore him, Mr. Jasper broke si­lence by declar­ing that he placed his whole re­liance, hu­man­ly speak­ing, on Mr. Sapsea’s pen­e­tra­tion. There was no con­ceiv­able rea­son why his nephew should have sud­den­ly ab­scond­ed, un­less Mr. Sapsea could sug­gest one, and then he would defer. There was no in­tel­li­gi­ble like­li­hood of his hav­ing re­turned to the river, and been ac­ci­den­tal­ly drowned in the dark, un­less it should ap­pear like­ly to Mr. Sapsea, and then again he would defer. He washed his hands as clean as he could of all hor­ri­ble sus­pi­cions, un­less it should ap­pear to Mr. Sapsea that some such were in­sep­a­ra­ble from his last com­pan­ion be­fore his dis­ap­pear­ance (not on good terms with pre­vi­ous­ly), and then, once more, he would defer. His own state of mind, he being dis­tract­ed with doubts, and labour­ing under dis­mal ap­pre­hen­sions, was not to be safe­ly trust­ed; but Mr. Sapsea’s was.

Mr. Sapsea ex­pressed his opin­ion that the case had a dark look; in short (and here his eyes rest­ed full on Neville’s coun­te­nance), an Un-En­glish com­plex­ion. Hav­ing made this grand point, he wan­dered into a denser haze and maze of non­sense than even a mayor might have been ex­pect­ed to dis­port him­self in, and came out of it with the bril­liant dis­cov­ery that to take the life of a fel­low-crea­ture was to take some­thing that didn’t be­long to you. He wa­vered whether or no he should at once issue his war­rant for the com­mit­tal of Neville Land­less to jail, under cir­cum­stances of grave sus­pi­cion; and he might have gone so far as to do it but for the in­dig­nant protest of the Minor Canon: who un­der­took for the young man’s re­main­ing in his own house, and being pro­duced by his own hands, when­ev­er de­mand­ed. Mr. Jasper then un­der­stood Mr. Sapsea to sug­gest that the river should be dragged, that its banks should be rigid­ly ex­am­ined, that par­tic­u­lars of the dis­ap­pear­ance should be sent to all out­ly­ing places and to Lon­don, and that plac­ards and ad­ver­tise­ments should be wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed im­plor­ing Edwin Drood, if for any un­known rea­son he had with­drawn him­self from his uncle’s home and so­ci­ety, to take pity on that lov­ing kins­man’s sore be­reave­ment and dis­tress, and some­how in­form him that he was yet alive. Mr. Sapsea was per­fect­ly un­der­stood, for this was ex­act­ly his mean­ing (though he had said noth­ing about it); and mea­sures were taken to­wards all these ends im­me­di­ate­ly.

It would be dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine which was the more op­pressed with hor­ror and amaze­ment: Neville Land­less, or John Jasper. But that Jasper’s po­si­tion forced him to be ac­tive, while Neville’s forced him to be pas­sive, there would have been noth­ing to choose be­tween them. Each was bowed down and bro­ken.

With the ear­li­est light of the next morn­ing, men were at work upon the river, and other men—most of whom vol­un­teered for the ser­vice—were ex­am­in­ing the banks. All the live­long day the search went on; upon the river, with barge and pole, and drag and net; upon the muddy and rushy shore, with jack-boots, hatch­et, spade, rope, dogs, and all imag­in­able ap­pli­ances. Even at night, the river was specked with lanterns, and lurid with fires; far-off creeks, into which the tide washed as it changed, had their knots of watch­ers, lis­ten­ing to the lap­ping of the stream, and look­ing out for any bur­den it might bear; re­mote shing­ly cause­ways near the sea, and lone­ly points off which there was a race of water, had their un­wont­ed flar­ing cres­sets and rough-coat­ed fig­ures when the next day dawned; but no trace of Edwin Drood re­vis­it­ed the light of the sun.

All that day, again, the search went on. Now, in barge and boat; and now ashore among the osiers, or tramp­ing amidst mud and stakes and jagged stones in low-ly­ing places, where soli­tary wa­ter­marks and sig­nals of strange shapes showed like spec­tres, John Jasper worked and toiled. But to no pur­pose; for still no trace of Edwin Drood re­vis­it­ed the light of the sun.

Set­ting his watch­es for that night again, so that vig­i­lant eyes should be kept on every change of tide, he went home ex­haust­ed. Un­kempt and dis­or­dered, be­daubed with mud that had dried upon him, and with much of his cloth­ing torn to rags, he had but just dropped into his easy-chair, when Mr. Grew­gious stood be­fore him.

‘This is strange news,’ said Mr. Grew­gious.

‘Strange and fear­ful news.’

Jasper had mere­ly lift­ed up his heavy eyes to say it, and now dropped them again as he drooped, worn out, over one side of his easy-chair.

Mr. Grew­gious smoothed his head and face, and stood look­ing at the fire.

‘How is your ward?’ asked Jasper, after a time, in a faint, fa­tigued voice.

‘Poor lit­tle thing! You may imag­ine her con­di­tion.’

‘Have you seen his sis­ter?’ in­quired Jasper, as be­fore.

‘Whose?’

The curt­ness of the counter-ques­tion, and the cool, slow man­ner in which, as he put it, Mr. Grew­gious moved his eyes from the fire to his com­pan­ion’s face, might at any other time have been ex­as­per­at­ing. In his de­pres­sion and ex­haus­tion, Jasper mere­ly opened his eyes to say: ‘The sus­pect­ed young man’s.’

‘Do you sus­pect him?’ asked Mr. Grew­gious.

‘I don’t know what to think. I can­not make up my mind.’

‘Nor I,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘But as you spoke of him as the sus­pect­ed young man, I thought you had made up your mind.—I have just left Miss Land­less.’

‘What is her state?’

‘De­fi­ance of all sus­pi­cion, and un­bound­ed faith in her broth­er.’

‘Poor thing!’

‘How­ev­er,’ pur­sued Mr. Grew­gious, ‘it is not of her that I came to speak. It is of my ward. I have a com­mu­ni­ca­tion to make that will sur­prise you. At least, it has sur­prised me.’

Jasper, with a groan­ing sigh, turned weari­ly in his chair.

‘Shall I put it off till to-mor­row?’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Mind, I warn you, that I think it will sur­prise you!’

More at­ten­tion and con­cen­tra­tion came into John Jasper’s eyes as they caught sight of Mr. Grew­gious smooth­ing his head again, and again look­ing at the fire; but now, with a com­pressed and de­ter­mined mouth.

‘What is it?’ de­mand­ed Jasper, be­com­ing up­right in his chair.

‘To be sure,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, pro­vok­ing­ly slow­ly and in­ter­nal­ly, as he kept his eyes on the fire: ‘I might have known it soon­er; she gave me the open­ing; but I am such an ex­ceed­ing­ly An­gu­lar man, that it never oc­curred to me; I took all for grant­ed.’

‘What is it?’ de­mand­ed Jasper once more.

Mr. Grew­gious, al­ter­nate­ly open­ing and shut­ting the palms of his hands as he warmed them at the fire, and look­ing fixed­ly at him side­ways, and never chang­ing ei­ther his ac­tion or his look in all that fol­lowed, went on to reply.

‘This young cou­ple, the lost youth and Miss Rosa, my ward, though so long be­trothed, and so long recog­nis­ing their be­trothal, and so near being mar­ried—’

Mr. Grew­gious saw a star­ing white face, and two quiv­er­ing white lips, in the easy-chair, and saw two muddy hands grip­ping its sides. But for the hands, he might have thought he had never seen the face.

‘—This young cou­ple came grad­u­al­ly to the dis­cov­ery (made on both sides pret­ty equal­ly, I think), that they would be hap­pi­er and bet­ter, both in their pre­sent and their fu­ture lives, as af­fec­tion­ate friends, or say rather as broth­er and sis­ter, than as hus­band and wife.’

Mr. Grew­gious saw a lead-coloured face in the easy-chair, and on its sur­face dread­ful start­ing drops or bub­bles, as if of steel.

‘This young cou­ple formed at length the healthy res­o­lu­tion of in­ter­chang­ing their dis­cov­er­ies, open­ly, sen­si­bly, and ten­der­ly. They met for that pur­pose. After some in­no­cent and gen­er­ous talk, they agreed to dis­solve their ex­ist­ing, and their in­tend­ed, re­la­tions, for ever and ever.’

Mr. Grew­gious saw a ghast­ly fig­ure rise, open-mouthed, from the easy-chair, and lift its out­spread hands to­wards its head.

‘One of this young cou­ple, and that one your nephew, fear­ful, how­ev­er, that in the ten­der­ness of your af­fec­tion for him you would be bit­ter­ly dis­ap­point­ed by so wide a de­par­ture from his pro­ject­ed life, for­bore to tell you the se­cret, for a few days, and left it to be dis­closed by me, when I should come down to speak to you, and he would be gone. I speak to you, and he is gone.’

Mr. Grew­gious saw the ghast­ly fig­ure throw back its head, clutch its hair with its hands, and turn with a writhing ac­tion from him.

‘I have now said all I have to say: ex­cept that this young cou­ple part­ed, firm­ly, though not with­out tears and sor­row, on the evening when you last saw them to­geth­er.’

Mr. Grew­gious heard a ter­ri­ble shriek, and saw no ghast­ly fig­ure, sit­ting or stand­ing; saw noth­ing but a heap of torn and miry clothes upon the floor.

Not chang­ing his ac­tion even then, he opened and shut the palms of his hands as he warmed them, and looked down at it.


CHAP­TER XVI
DE­VOT­ED

When John Jasper re­cov­ered from his fit or swoon, he found him­self being tend­ed by Mr. and Mrs. Tope, whom his vis­i­tor had sum­moned for the pur­pose. His vis­i­tor, wood­en of as­pect, sat stiffly in a chair, with his hands upon his knees, watch­ing his re­cov­ery.

‘There! You’ve come to nice­ly now, sir,’ said the tear­ful Mrs. Tope; ‘you were thor­ough­ly worn out, and no won­der!’

‘A man,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, with his usual air of re­peat­ing a les­son, ‘can­not have his rest bro­ken, and his mind cru­el­ly tor­ment­ed, and his body over­taxed by fa­tigue, with­out being thor­ough­ly worn out.’

‘I fear I have alarmed you?’ Jasper apol­o­gised faint­ly, when he was helped into his easy-chair.

‘Not at all, I thank you,’ an­swered Mr. Grew­gious.

‘You are too con­sid­er­ate.’

‘Not at all, I thank you,’ an­swered Mr. Grew­gious again.

‘You must take some wine, sir,’ said Mrs. Tope, ‘and the jelly that I had ready for you, and that you wouldn’t put your lips to at noon, though I warned you what would come of it, you know, and you not break­fast­ed; and you must have a wing of the roast fowl that has been put back twen­ty times if it’s been put back once. It shall all be on table in five min­utes, and this good gen­tle­man be­like will stop and see you take it.’

This good gen­tle­man replied with a snort, which might mean yes, or no, or any­thing or noth­ing, and which Mrs. Tope would have found high­ly mys­ti­fy­ing, but that her at­ten­tion was di­vid­ed by the ser­vice of the table.

‘You will take some­thing with me?’ said Jasper, as the cloth was laid.

‘I couldn’t get a morsel down my throat, I thank you,’ an­swered Mr. Grew­gious.

Jasper both ate and drank al­most vo­ra­cious­ly. Com­bined with the hurry in his mode of doing it, was an ev­i­dent in­dif­fer­ence to the taste of what he took, sug­gest­ing that he ate and drank to for­ti­fy him­self against any other fail­ure of the spir­its, far more than to grat­i­fy his palate. Mr. Grew­gious in the mean­time sat up­right, with no ex­pres­sion in his face, and a hard kind of im­per­turbably po­lite protest all over him: as though he would have said, in reply to some in­vi­ta­tion to dis­course; ‘I couldn’t orig­i­nate the faintest ap­proach to an ob­ser­va­tion on any sub­ject what­ev­er, I thank you.’

‘Do you know,’ said Jasper, when he had pushed away his plate and glass, and had sat med­i­tat­ing for a few min­utes: ‘do you know that I find some crumbs of com­fort in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion with which you have so much amazed me?’

‘Do you?’ re­turned Mr. Grew­gious, pret­ty plain­ly adding the un­spo­ken clause: ‘I don’t, I thank you!’

‘After re­cov­er­ing from the shock of a piece of news of my dear boy, so en­tire­ly un­ex­pect­ed, and so de­struc­tive of all the cas­tles I had built for him; and after hav­ing had time to think of it; yes.’

‘I shall be glad to pick up your crumbs,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, dryly.

‘Is there not, or is there—if I de­ceive my­self, tell me so, and short­en my pain—is there not, or is there, hope that, find­ing him­self in this new po­si­tion, and be­com­ing sen­si­tive­ly alive to the awk­ward bur­den of ex­pla­na­tion, in this quar­ter, and that, and the other, with which it would load him, he avoid­ed the awk­ward­ness, and took to flight?’

‘Such a thing might be,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, pon­der­ing.

‘Such a thing has been. I have read of cases in which peo­ple, rather than face a seven days’ won­der, and have to ac­count for them­selves to the idle and im­per­ti­nent, have taken them­selves away, and been long un­heard of.’

‘I be­lieve such things have hap­pened,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, pon­der­ing still.

‘When I had, and could have, no sus­pi­cion,’ pur­sued Jasper, ea­ger­ly fol­low­ing the new track, ‘that the dear lost boy had with­held any­thing from me—most of all, such a lead­ing mat­ter as this—what gleam of light was there for me in the whole black sky? When I sup­posed that his in­tend­ed wife was here, and his mar­riage close at hand, how could I en­ter­tain the pos­si­bil­i­ty of his vol­un­tar­i­ly leav­ing this place, in a man­ner that would be so un­ac­count­able, capri­cious, and cruel? But now that I know what you have told me, is there no lit­tle chink through which day pierces? Sup­pos­ing him to have dis­ap­peared of his own act, is not his dis­ap­pear­ance more ac­count­able and less cruel? The fact of his hav­ing just part­ed from your ward, is in it­self a sort of rea­son for his going away. It does not make his mys­te­ri­ous de­par­ture the less cruel to me, it is true; but it re­lieves it of cru­el­ty to her.’

Mr. Grew­gious could not but as­sent to this.

‘And even as to me,’ con­tin­ued Jasper, still pur­su­ing the new track, with ar­dour, and, as he did so, bright­en­ing with hope: ‘he knew that you were com­ing to me; he knew that you were in­trust­ed to tell me what you have told me; if your doing so has awak­ened a new train of thought in my per­plexed mind, it rea­son­ably fol­lows that, from the same premis­es, he might have fore­seen the in­fer­ences that I should draw. Grant that he did fore­see them; and even the cru­el­ty to me—and who am I!—John Jasper, Music Mas­ter, van­ish­es!’—

Once more, Mr. Grew­gious could not but as­sent to this.

‘I have had my dis­trusts, and ter­ri­ble dis­trusts they have been,’ said Jasper; ‘but your dis­clo­sure, over­pow­er­ing as it was at first—show­ing me that my own dear boy had had a great dis­ap­point­ing reser­va­tion from me, who so fond­ly loved him, kin­dles hope with­in me. You do not ex­tin­guish it when I state it, but admit it to be a rea­son­able hope. I begin to be­lieve it pos­si­ble:’ here he clasped his hands: ‘that he may have dis­ap­peared from among us of his own ac­cord, and that he may yet be alive and well.’

Mr. Crisparkle came in at the mo­ment. To whom Mr. Jasper re­peat­ed:

‘I begin to be­lieve it pos­si­ble that he may have dis­ap­peared of his own ac­cord, and may yet be alive and well.’

Mr. Crisparkle tak­ing a seat, and in­quir­ing: ‘Why so?’ Mr. Jasper re­peat­ed the ar­gu­ments he had just set forth. If they had been less plau­si­ble than they were, the good Minor Canon’s mind would have been in a state of prepa­ra­tion to re­ceive them, as ex­cul­pa­to­ry of his un­for­tu­nate pupil. But he, too, did re­al­ly at­tach great im­por­tance to the lost young man’s hav­ing been, so im­me­di­ate­ly be­fore his dis­ap­pear­ance, placed in a new and em­bar­rass­ing re­la­tion to­wards every one ac­quaint­ed with his pro­jects and af­fairs; and the fact seemed to him to pre­sent the ques­tion in a new light.

‘I stat­ed to Mr. Sapsea, when we wait­ed on him,’ said Jasper: as he re­al­ly had done: ‘that there was no quar­rel or dif­fer­ence be­tween the two young men at their last meet­ing. We all know that their first meet­ing was un­for­tu­nate­ly very far from am­i­ca­ble; but all went smooth­ly and qui­et­ly when they were last to­geth­er at my house. My dear boy was not in his usual spir­its; he was de­pressed—I no­ticed that—and I am bound hence­forth to dwell upon the cir­cum­stance the more, now that I know there was a spe­cial rea­son for his being de­pressed: a rea­son, more­over, which may pos­si­bly have in­duced him to ab­sent him­self.’

‘I pray to Heav­en it may turn out so!’ ex­claimed Mr. Crisparkle.

‘I pray to Heav­en it may turn out so!’ re­peat­ed Jasper. ‘You know—and Mr. Grew­gious should now know like­wise—that I took a great pre­pos­ses­sion against Mr. Neville Land­less, aris­ing out of his fu­ri­ous con­duct on that first oc­ca­sion. You know that I came to you, ex­treme­ly ap­pre­hen­sive, on my dear boy’s be­half, of his mad vi­o­lence. You know that I even en­tered in my Diary, and showed the entry to you, that I had dark fore­bod­ings against him. Mr. Grew­gious ought to be pos­sessed of the whole case. He shall not, through any sup­pres­sion of mine, be in­formed of a part of it, and kept in ig­no­rance of an­oth­er part of it. I wish him to be good enough to un­der­stand that the com­mu­ni­ca­tion he has made to me has hope­ful­ly in­flu­enced my mind, in spite of its hav­ing been, be­fore this mys­te­ri­ous oc­cur­rence took place, pro­found­ly im­pressed against young Land­less.’

This fair­ness trou­bled the Minor Canon much. He felt that he was not as open in his own deal­ing. He charged against him­self re­proach­ful­ly that he had sup­pressed, so far, the two points of a sec­ond strong out­break of tem­per against Edwin Drood on the part of Neville, and of the pas­sion of jeal­ousy hav­ing, to his own cer­tain knowl­edge, flamed up in Neville’s breast against him. He was con­vinced of Neville’s in­no­cence of any part in the ugly dis­ap­pear­ance; and yet so many lit­tle cir­cum­stances com­bined so wo­ful­ly against him, that he dread­ed to add two more to their cu­mu­la­tive weight. He was among the truest of men; but he had been bal­anc­ing in his mind, much to its dis­tress, whether his vol­un­teer­ing to tell these two frag­ments of truth, at this time, would not be tan­ta­mount to a piec­ing to­geth­er of false­hood in the place of truth.

How­ev­er, here was a model be­fore him. He hes­i­tat­ed no longer. Ad­dress­ing Mr. Grew­gious, as one placed in au­thor­i­ty by the rev­e­la­tion he had brought to bear on the mys­tery (and sur­pass­ing­ly An­gu­lar Mr. Grew­gious be­came when he found him­self in that un­ex­pect­ed po­si­tion), Mr. Crisparkle bore his tes­ti­mo­ny to Mr. Jasper’s strict sense of jus­tice, and, ex­press­ing his ab­so­lute con­fi­dence in the com­plete clear­ance of his pupil from the least taint of sus­pi­cion, soon­er or later, avowed that his con­fi­dence in that young gen­tle­man had been formed, in spite of his con­fi­den­tial knowl­edge that his tem­per was of the hottest and fiercest, and that it was di­rect­ly in­censed against Mr. Jasper’s nephew, by the cir­cum­stance of his ro­man­ti­cal­ly sup­pos­ing him­self to be en­am­oured of the same young lady. The san­guine re­ac­tion man­i­fest in Mr. Jasper was proof even against this un­looked-for dec­la­ra­tion. It turned him paler; but he re­peat­ed that he would cling to the hope he had de­rived from Mr. Grew­gious; and that if no trace of his dear boy were found, lead­ing to the dread­ful in­fer­ence that he had been made away with, he would cher­ish unto the last stretch of pos­si­bil­i­ty the idea, that he might have ab­scond­ed of his own wild will.

Now, it fell out that Mr. Crisparkle, going away from this con­fer­ence still very un­easy in his mind, and very much trou­bled on be­half of the young man whom he held as a kind of pris­on­er in his own house, took a mem­o­rable night walk.

He walked to Clois­ter­ham Weir.

He often did so, and con­se­quent­ly there was noth­ing re­mark­able in his foot­steps tend­ing that way. But the pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of his mind so hin­dered him from plan­ning any walk, or tak­ing heed of the ob­jects he passed, that his first con­scious­ness of being near the Weir, was de­rived from the sound of the falling water close at hand.

‘How did I come here!’ was his first thought, as he stopped.

‘Why did I come here!’ was his sec­ond.

Then, he stood in­tent­ly lis­ten­ing to the water. A fa­mil­iar pas­sage in his read­ing, about airy tongues that syl­la­ble men’s names, rose so un­bid­den to his ear, that he put it from him with his hand, as if it were tan­gi­ble.

It was starlight. The Weir was full two miles above the spot to which the young men had re­paired to watch the storm. No search had been made up here, for the tide had been run­ning strong­ly down, at that time of the night of Christ­mas Eve, and the like­li­est places for the dis­cov­ery of a body, if a fatal ac­ci­dent had hap­pened under such cir­cum­stances, all lay—both when the tide ebbed, and when it flowed again—be­tween that spot and the sea. The water came over the Weir, with its usual sound on a cold starlight night, and lit­tle could be seen of it; yet Mr. Crisparkle had a strange idea that some­thing un­usu­al hung about the place.

He rea­soned with him­self: What was it? Where was it? Put it to the proof. Which sense did it ad­dress?

No sense re­port­ed any­thing un­usu­al there. He lis­tened again, and his sense of hear­ing again checked the water com­ing over the Weir, with its usual sound on a cold starlight night.

Know­ing very well that the mys­tery with which his mind was oc­cu­pied, might of it­self give the place this haunt­ed air, he strained those hawk’s eyes of his for the cor­rec­tion of his sight. He got clos­er to the Weir, and peered at its well-known posts and tim­bers. Noth­ing in the least un­usu­al was re­mote­ly shad­owed forth. But he re­solved that he would come back early in the morn­ing.

The Weir ran through his bro­ken sleep, all night, and he was back again at sun­rise. It was a bright frosty morn­ing. The whole com­po­si­tion be­fore him, when he stood where he had stood last night, was clear­ly dis­cernible in its min­utest de­tails. He had sur­veyed it close­ly for some min­utes, and was about to with­draw his eyes, when they were at­tract­ed keen­ly to one spot.

He turned his back upon the Weir, and looked far away at the sky, and at the earth, and then looked again at that one spot. It caught his sight again im­me­di­ate­ly, and he con­cen­trat­ed his vi­sion upon it. He could not lose it now, though it was but such a speck in the land­scape. It fas­ci­nat­ed his sight. His hands began pluck­ing off his coat. For it struck him that at that spot—a cor­ner of the Weir—some­thing glis­tened, which did not move and come over with the glis­ten­ing wa­ter-drops, but re­mained sta­tion­ary.

He as­sured him­self of this, he threw off his clothes, he plunged into the icy water, and swam for the spot. Climb­ing the tim­bers, he took from them, caught among their in­ter­stices by its chain, a gold watch, bear­ing en­graved upon its back E. D.

He brought the watch to the bank, swam to the Weir again, climbed it, and dived off. He knew every hole and cor­ner of all the depths, and dived and dived and dived, until he could bear the cold no more. His no­tion was, that he would find the body; he only found a shirt-pin stick­ing in some mud and ooze.

With these dis­cov­er­ies he re­turned to Clois­ter­ham, and, tak­ing Neville Land­less with him, went straight to the Mayor. Mr. Jasper was sent for, the watch and shirt-pin were iden­ti­fied, Neville was de­tained, and the wildest fren­zy and fa­tu­ity of evil re­port rose against him. He was of that vin­dic­tive and vi­o­lent na­ture, that but for his poor sis­ter, who alone had in­flu­ence over him, and out of whose sight he was never to be trust­ed, he would be in the daily com­mis­sion of mur­der. Be­fore com­ing to Eng­land he had caused to be whipped to death sundry ‘Na­tives’—no­madic per­sons, en­camp­ing now in Asia, now in Africa, now in the West In­dies, and now at the North Pole—vague­ly sup­posed in Clois­ter­ham to be al­ways black, al­ways of great virtue, al­ways call­ing them­selves Me, and ev­ery­body else Massa or Missie (ac­cord­ing to sex), and al­ways read­ing tracts of the ob­scurest mean­ing, in bro­ken En­glish, but al­ways ac­cu­rate­ly un­der­stand­ing them in the purest moth­er tongue. He had near­ly brought Mrs. Crisparkle’s grey hairs with sor­row to the grave. (Those orig­i­nal ex­pres­sions were Mr. Sapsea’s.) He had re­peat­ed­ly said he would have Mr. Crisparkle’s life. He had re­peat­ed­ly said he would have ev­ery­body’s life, and be­come in ef­fect the last man. He had been brought down to Clois­ter­ham, from Lon­don, by an em­i­nent Phi­lan­thropist, and why? Be­cause that Phi­lan­thropist had ex­press­ly de­clared: ‘I owe it to my fel­low-crea­tures that he should be, in the words of Ben­tham, where he is the cause of the great­est dan­ger to the small­est num­ber.’

These drop­ping shots from the blun­der­busses of blun­der­head­ed­ness might not have hit him in a vital place. But he had to stand against a trained and well-di­rect­ed fire of arms of pre­ci­sion too. He had no­to­ri­ous­ly threat­ened the lost young man, and had, ac­cord­ing to the show­ing of his own faith­ful friend and tutor who strove so hard for him, a cause of bit­ter an­i­mos­i­ty (cre­at­ed by him­self, and stat­ed by him­self), against that ill-starred fel­low. He had armed him­self with an of­fen­sive weapon for the fatal night, and he had gone off early in the morn­ing, after mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for de­par­ture. He had been found with traces of blood on him; truly, they might have been whol­ly caused as he rep­re­sent­ed, but they might not, also. On a search-war­rant being is­sued for the ex­am­i­na­tion of his room, clothes, and so forth, it was dis­cov­ered that he had de­stroyed all his pa­pers, and re­ar­ranged all his pos­ses­sions, on the very af­ter­noon of the dis­ap­pear­ance. The watch found at the Weir was chal­lenged by the jew­eller as one he had wound and set for Edwin Drood, at twen­ty min­utes past two on that same af­ter­noon; and it had run down, be­fore being cast into the water; and it was the jew­eller’s pos­i­tive opin­ion that it had never been re-wound. This would jus­ti­fy the hy­poth­e­sis that the watch was taken from him not long after he left Mr. Jasper’s house at mid­night, in com­pa­ny with the last per­son seen with him, and that it had been thrown away after being re­tained some hours. Why thrown away? If he had been mur­dered, and so art­ful­ly dis­fig­ured, or con­cealed, or both, as that the mur­der­er hoped iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to be im­pos­si­ble, ex­cept from some­thing that he wore, as­sured­ly the mur­der­er would seek to re­move from the body the most last­ing, the best known, and the most eas­i­ly recog­nis­able, things upon it. Those things would be the watch and shirt-pin. As to his op­por­tu­ni­ties of cast­ing them into the river; if he were the ob­ject of these sus­pi­cions, they were easy. For, he had been seen by many per­sons, wan­der­ing about on that side of the city—in­deed on all sides of it—in a mis­er­able and seem­ing­ly half-dis­tract­ed man­ner. As to the choice of the spot, ob­vi­ous­ly such crim­i­nat­ing ev­i­dence had bet­ter take its chance of being found any­where, rather than upon him­self, or in his pos­ses­sion. Con­cern­ing the rec­on­cil­ia­to­ry na­ture of the ap­point­ed meet­ing be­tween the two young men, very lit­tle could be made of that in young Land­less’s favour; for it dis­tinct­ly ap­peared that the meet­ing orig­i­nat­ed, not with him, but with Mr. Crisparkle, and that it had been urged on by Mr. Crisparkle; and who could say how un­will­ing­ly, or in what ill-con­di­tioned mood, his en­forced pupil had gone to it? The more his case was looked into, the weak­er it be­came in every point. Even the broad sug­ges­tion that the lost young man had ab­scond­ed, was ren­dered ad­di­tion­al­ly im­prob­a­ble on the show­ing of the young lady from whom he had so late­ly part­ed; for; what did she say, with great earnest­ness and sor­row, when in­ter­ro­gat­ed? That he had, ex­press­ly and en­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly, planned with her, that he would await the ar­rival of her guardian, Mr. Grew­gious. And yet, be it ob­served, he dis­ap­peared be­fore that gen­tle­man ap­peared.

On the sus­pi­cions thus urged and sup­port­ed, Neville was de­tained, and re-de­tained, and the search was pressed on every hand, and Jasper laboured night and day. But noth­ing more was found. No dis­cov­ery being made, which proved the lost man to be dead, it at length be­came nec­es­sary to re­lease the per­son sus­pect­ed of hav­ing made away with him. Neville was set at large. Then, a con­se­quence en­sued which Mr. Crisparkle had too well fore­seen. Neville must leave the place, for the place shunned him and cast him out. Even had it not been so, the dear old china shep­herdess would have wor­ried her­self to death with fears for her son, and with gen­er­al trep­i­da­tion oc­ca­sioned by their hav­ing such an in­mate. Even had that not been so, the au­thor­i­ty to which the Minor Canon de­ferred of­fi­cial­ly, would have set­tled the point.

‘Mr. Crisparkle,’ quoth the Dean, ‘human jus­tice may err, but it must act ac­cord­ing to its lights. The days of tak­ing sanc­tu­ary are past. This young man must not take sanc­tu­ary with us.’

‘You mean that he must leave my house, sir?’

‘Mr. Crisparkle,’ re­turned the pru­dent Dean, ‘I claim no au­thor­i­ty in your house. I mere­ly con­fer with you, on the painful ne­ces­si­ty you find your­self under, of de­priv­ing this young man of the great ad­van­tages of your coun­sel and in­struc­tion.’

‘It is very lamentable, sir,’ Mr. Crisparkle rep­re­sent­ed.

‘Very much so,’ the Dean as­sent­ed.

‘And if it be a ne­ces­si­ty—’ Mr. Crisparkle fal­tered.

‘As you un­for­tu­nate­ly find it to be,’ re­turned the Dean.

Mr. Crisparkle bowed sub­mis­sive­ly: ‘It is hard to pre­judge his case, sir, but I am sen­si­ble that—’

‘Just so. Per­fect­ly. As you say, Mr. Crisparkle,’ in­ter­posed the Dean, nod­ding his head smooth­ly, ‘there is noth­ing else to be done. No doubt, no doubt. There is no al­ter­na­tive, as your good sense has dis­cov­ered.’

‘I am en­tire­ly sat­is­fied of his per­fect in­no­cence, sir, nev­er­the­less.’

‘We-e-ell!’ said the Dean, in a more con­fi­den­tial tone, and slight­ly glanc­ing around him, ‘I would not say so, gen­er­al­ly. Not gen­er­al­ly. Enough of sus­pi­cion at­tach­es to him to—no, I think I would not say so, gen­er­al­ly.’

Mr. Crisparkle bowed again.

‘It does not be­come us, per­haps,’ pur­sued the Dean, ‘to be par­ti­sans. Not par­ti­sans. We cler­gy keep our hearts warm and our heads cool, and we hold a ju­di­cious mid­dle course.’

‘I hope you do not ob­ject, sir, to my hav­ing stat­ed in pub­lic, em­phat­i­cal­ly, that he will reap­pear here, when­ev­er any new sus­pi­cion may be awak­ened, or any new cir­cum­stance may come to light in this ex­traor­di­nary mat­ter?’

‘Not at all,’ re­turned the Dean. ‘And yet, do you know, I don’t think,’ with a very nice and neat em­pha­sis on those two words: ‘I don’t think I would state it em­phat­i­cal­ly. State it? Ye-e-es! But em­phat­i­cal­ly? No-o-o. I think not. In point of fact, Mr. Crisparkle, keep­ing our hearts warm and our heads cool, we cler­gy need do noth­ing em­phat­i­cal­ly.’

So Minor Canon Row knew Neville Land­less no more; and he went whith­er­so­ev­er he would, or could, with a blight upon his name and fame.

It was not until then that John Jasper silent­ly re­sumed his place in the choir. Hag­gard and red-eyed, his hopes plain­ly had de­sert­ed him, his san­guine mood was gone, and all his worst mis­giv­ings had come back. A day or two af­ter­wards, while un­rob­ing, he took his Diary from a pock­et of his coat, turned the leaves, and with an im­pres­sive look, and with­out one spo­ken word, hand­ed this entry to Mr. Crisparkle to read:

‘My dear boy is mur­dered. The dis­cov­ery of the watch and shirt-pin con­vinces me that he was mur­dered that night, and that his jew­ellery was taken from him to pre­vent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion by its means. All the delu­sive hopes I had found­ed on his sep­a­ra­tion from his be­trothed wife, I give to the winds. They per­ish be­fore this fatal dis­cov­ery. I now swear, and record the oath on this page, That I nev­er­more will dis­cuss this mys­tery with any human crea­ture until I hold the clue to it in my hand. That I never will relax in my se­cre­cy or in my search. That I will fas­ten the crime of the mur­der of my dear dead boy upon the mur­der­er. And, That I de­vote my­self to his de­struc­tion.’


CHAP­TER XVII
PHI­LAN­THROPY, PRO­FES­SION­AL AND UN­PRO­FES­SION­AL

Full half a year had come and gone, and Mr. Crisparkle sat in a wait­ing-room in the Lon­don chief of­fices of the Haven of Phi­lan­thropy, until he could have au­di­ence of Mr. Hon­eythun­der.

In his col­lege days of ath­let­ic ex­er­cis­es, Mr. Crisparkle had known pro­fes­sors of the Noble Art of fisticuffs, and had at­tend­ed two or three of their gloved gath­er­ings. He had now an op­por­tu­ni­ty of ob­serv­ing that as to the phreno­log­i­cal for­ma­tion of the backs of their heads, the Pro­fess­ing Phi­lan­thropists were un­com­mon­ly like the Pugilists. In the de­vel­op­ment of all those or­gans which con­sti­tute, or at­tend, a propen­si­ty to ‘pitch into’ your fel­low-crea­tures, the Phi­lan­thropists were re­mark­ably favoured. There were sev­er­al Pro­fes­sors pass­ing in and out, with ex­act­ly the ag­gres­sive air upon them of being ready for a turn-up with any Novice who might hap­pen to be on hand, that Mr. Crisparkle well re­mem­bered in the cir­cles of the Fancy. Prepa­ra­tions were in progress for a moral lit­tle Mill some­where on the rural cir­cuit, and other Pro­fes­sors were back­ing this or that Heavy-Weight as good for such or such speech-mak­ing hits, so very much after the man­ner of the sport­ing pub­li­cans, that the in­tend­ed Res­o­lu­tions might have been Rounds. In an of­fi­cial man­ag­er of these dis­plays much cel­e­brat­ed for his plat­form tac­tics, Mr. Crisparkle recog­nised (in a suit of black) the coun­ter­part of a de­ceased bene­fac­tor of his species, an em­i­nent pub­lic char­ac­ter, once known to fame as Frosty-faced Fogo, who in days of yore su­per­in­tend­ed the for­ma­tion of the magic cir­cle with the ropes and stakes. There were only three con­di­tions of re­sem­blance want­ing be­tween these Pro­fes­sors and those. First­ly, the Phi­lan­thropists were in very bad train­ing: much too fleshy, and pre­sent­ing, both in face and fig­ure, a su­per­abun­dance of what is known to Pugilis­tic Ex­perts as Suet Pud­ding. Sec­ond­ly, the Phi­lan­thropists had not the good tem­per of the Pugilists, and used worse lan­guage. Third­ly, their fight­ing code stood in great need of re­vi­sion, as em­pow­er­ing them not only to bore their man to the ropes, but to bore him to the con­fines of dis­trac­tion; also to hit him when he was down, hit him any­where and any­how, kick him, stamp upon him, gouge him, and maul him be­hind his back with­out mercy. In these last par­tic­u­lars the Pro­fes­sors of the Noble Art were much no­bler than the Pro­fes­sors of Phi­lan­thropy.

Mr. Crisparkle was so com­plete­ly lost in mus­ing on these sim­i­lar­i­ties and dis­sim­i­lar­i­ties, at the same time watch­ing the crowd which came and went by, al­ways, as it seemed, on er­rands of an­tag­o­nis­ti­cal­ly snatch­ing some­thing from some­body, and never giv­ing any­thing to any­body, that his name was called be­fore he heard it. On his at length re­spond­ing, he was shown by a mis­er­ably shab­by and un­der­paid stipen­di­ary Phi­lan­thropist (who could hard­ly have done worse if he had taken ser­vice with a de­clared enemy of the human race) to Mr. Hon­eythun­der’s room.

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Hon­eythun­der, in his tremen­dous voice, like a school­mas­ter is­su­ing or­ders to a boy of whom he had a bad opin­ion, ‘sit down.’

Mr. Crisparkle seat­ed him­self.

Mr. Hon­eythun­der hav­ing signed the re­main­ing few score of a few thou­sand cir­cu­lars, call­ing upon a cor­re­spond­ing num­ber of fam­i­lies with­out means to come for­ward, stump up in­stant­ly, and be Phi­lan­thropists, or go to the Devil, an­oth­er shab­by stipen­di­ary Phi­lan­thropist (high­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed, if in earnest) gath­ered these into a bas­ket and walked off with them.

‘Now, Mr. Crisparkle,’ said Mr. Hon­eythun­der, turn­ing his chair half round to­wards him when they were alone, and squar­ing his arms with his hands on his knees, and his brows knit­ted, as if he added, I am going to make short work of you: ‘Now, Mr. Crisparkle, we en­ter­tain dif­fer­ent views, you and I, sir, of the sanc­ti­ty of human life.’

‘Do we?’ re­turned the Minor Canon.

‘We do, sir?’

‘Might I ask you,’ said the Minor Canon: ‘what are your views on that sub­ject?’

‘That human life is a thing to be held sa­cred, sir.’

‘Might I ask you,’ pur­sued the Minor Canon as be­fore: ‘what you sup­pose to be my views on that sub­ject?’

‘By George, sir!’ re­turned the Phi­lan­thropist, squar­ing his arms still more, as he frowned on Mr. Crisparkle: ‘they are best known to your­self.’

‘Read­i­ly ad­mit­ted. But you began by say­ing that we took dif­fer­ent views, you know. There­fore (or you could not say so) you must have set up some views as mine. Pray, what views have you set up as mine?’

‘Here is a man—and a young man,’ said Mr. Hon­eythun­der, as if that made the mat­ter in­finite­ly worse, and he could have eas­i­ly borne the loss of an old one, ‘swept off the face of the earth by a deed of vi­o­lence. What do you call that?’

‘Mur­der,’ said the Minor Canon.

‘What do you call the doer of that deed, sir?

‘A mur­der­er,’ said the Minor Canon.

‘I am glad to hear you admit so much, sir,’ re­tort­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der, in his most of­fen­sive man­ner; ‘and I can­did­ly tell you that I didn’t ex­pect it.’ Here he low­ered heav­i­ly at Mr. Crisparkle again.

‘Be so good as to ex­plain what you mean by those very un­jus­ti­fi­able ex­pres­sions.’

‘I don’t sit here, sir,’ re­turned the Phi­lan­thropist, rais­ing his voice to a roar, ‘to be brow­beat­en.’

‘As the only other per­son pre­sent, no one can pos­si­bly know that bet­ter than I do,’ re­turned the Minor Canon very qui­et­ly. ‘But I in­ter­rupt your ex­pla­na­tion.’

‘Mur­der!’ pro­ceed­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der, in a kind of bois­ter­ous rever­ie, with his plat­form fold­ing of his arms, and his plat­form nod of ab­hor­rent re­flec­tion after each short sen­ti­ment of a word. ‘Blood­shed! Abel! Cain! I hold no terms with Cain. I re­pu­di­ate with a shud­der the red hand when it is of­fered me.’

In­stead of in­stant­ly leap­ing into his chair and cheer­ing him­self hoarse, as the Broth­er­hood in pub­lic meet­ing as­sem­bled would in­fal­li­bly have done on this cue, Mr. Crisparkle mere­ly re­versed the quiet cross­ing of his legs, and said mild­ly: ‘Don’t let me in­ter­rupt your ex­pla­na­tion—when you begin it.’

‘The Com­mand­ments say, no mur­der. NO mur­der, sir!’ pro­ceed­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der, plat­for­mal­ly paus­ing as if he took Mr. Crisparkle to task for hav­ing dis­tinct­ly as­sert­ed that they said: You may do a lit­tle mur­der, and then leave off.

‘And they also say, you shall bear no false wit­ness,’ ob­served Mr. Crisparkle.

‘Enough!’ bel­lowed Mr. Hon­eythun­der, with a solem­ni­ty and sever­i­ty that would have brought the house down at a meet­ing, ‘E-e-nough! My late wards being now of age, and I being re­leased from a trust which I can­not con­tem­plate with­out a thrill of hor­ror, there are the ac­counts which you have un­der­tak­en to ac­cept on their be­half, and there is a state­ment of the bal­ance which you have un­der­tak­en to re­ceive, and which you can­not re­ceive too soon. And let me tell you, sir, I wish that, as a man and a Minor Canon, you were bet­ter em­ployed,’ with a nod. ‘Bet­ter em­ployed,’ with an­oth­er nod. ‘Bet-ter em-ployed!’ with an­oth­er and the three nods added up.

Mr. Crisparkle rose; a lit­tle heat­ed in the face, but with per­fect com­mand of him­self.

‘Mr. Hon­eythun­der,’ he said, tak­ing up the pa­pers re­ferred to: ‘my being bet­ter or worse em­ployed than I am at pre­sent is a mat­ter of taste and opin­ion. You might think me bet­ter em­ployed in en­rolling my­self a mem­ber of your So­ci­ety.’

‘Ay, in­deed, sir!’ re­tort­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der, shak­ing his head in a threat­en­ing man­ner. ‘It would have been bet­ter for you if you had done that long ago!’

‘I think oth­er­wise.’

‘Or,’ said Mr. Hon­eythun­der, shak­ing his head again, ‘I might think one of your pro­fes­sion bet­ter em­ployed in de­vot­ing him­self to the dis­cov­ery and pun­ish­ment of guilt than in leav­ing that duty to be un­der­tak­en by a lay­man.’

‘I may re­gard my pro­fes­sion from a point of view which teach­es me that its first duty is to­wards those who are in ne­ces­si­ty and tribu­la­tion, who are des­o­late and op­pressed,’ said Mr. Crisparkle. ‘How­ev­er, as I have quite clear­ly sat­is­fied my­self that it is no part of my pro­fes­sion to make pro­fes­sions, I say no more of that. But I owe it to Mr. Neville, and to Mr. Neville’s sis­ter (and in a much lower de­gree to my­self), to say to you that I know I was in the full pos­ses­sion and un­der­stand­ing of Mr. Neville’s mind and heart at the time of this oc­cur­rence; and that, with­out in the least colour­ing or con­ceal­ing what was to be de­plored in him and re­quired to be cor­rect­ed, I feel cer­tain that his tale is true. Feel­ing that cer­tain­ty, I be­friend him. As long as that cer­tain­ty shall last, I will be­friend him. And if any con­sid­er­a­tion could shake me in this re­solve, I should be so ashamed of my­self for my mean­ness, that no man’s good opin­ion—no, nor no woman’s—so gained, could com­pen­sate me for the loss of my own.’

Good fel­low! manly fel­low! And he was so mod­est, too. There was no more self-as­ser­tion in the Minor Canon than in the school­boy who had stood in the breezy play­ing-fields keep­ing a wick­et. He was sim­ply and staunch­ly true to his duty alike in the large case and in the small. So all true souls ever are. So every true soul ever was, ever is, and ever will be. There is noth­ing lit­tle to the re­al­ly great in spir­it.

‘Then who do you make out did the deed?’ asked Mr. Hon­eythun­der, turn­ing on him abrupt­ly.

‘Heav­en for­bid,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘that in my de­sire to clear one man I should light­ly crim­i­nate an­oth­er! I ac­cuse no one.’

‘Tcha!’ ejac­u­lat­ed Mr. Hon­eythun­der with great dis­gust; for this was by no means the prin­ci­ple on which the Phi­lan­throp­ic Broth­er­hood usu­al­ly pro­ceed­ed. ‘And, sir, you are not a dis­in­ter­est­ed wit­ness, we must bear in mind.’

‘How am I an in­ter­est­ed one?’ in­quired Mr. Crisparkle, smil­ing in­no­cent­ly, at a loss to imag­ine.

‘There was a cer­tain stipend, sir, paid to you for your pupil, which may have warped your judg­ment a bit,’ said Mr. Hon­eythun­der, coarse­ly.

‘Per­haps I ex­pect to re­tain it still?’ Mr. Crisparkle re­turned, en­light­ened; ‘do you mean that too?’

‘Well, sir,’ re­turned the pro­fes­sion­al Phi­lan­thropist, get­ting up and thrust­ing his hands down into his trousers-pock­ets, ‘I don’t go about mea­sur­ing peo­ple for caps. If peo­ple find I have any about me that fit ’em, they can put ’em on and wear ’em, if they like. That’s their look out: not mine.’

Mr. Crisparkle eyed him with a just in­dig­na­tion, and took him to task thus:

‘Mr. Hon­eythun­der, I hoped when I came in here that I might be under no ne­ces­si­ty of com­ment­ing on the in­tro­duc­tion of plat­form man­ners or plat­form manœuvres among the de­cent for­bear­ances of pri­vate life. But you have given me such a spec­i­men of both, that I should be a fit sub­ject for both if I re­mained silent re­spect­ing them. They are de­testable.’

‘They don’t suit you, I dare say, sir.’

‘They are,’ re­peat­ed Mr. Crisparkle, with­out notic­ing the in­ter­rup­tion, ‘de­testable. They vi­o­late equal­ly the jus­tice that should be­long to Chris­tians, and the re­straints that should be­long to gen­tle­men. You as­sume a great crime to have been com­mit­ted by one whom I, ac­quaint­ed with the at­ten­dant cir­cum­stances, and hav­ing nu­mer­ous rea­sons on my side, de­vout­ly be­lieve to be in­no­cent of it. Be­cause I dif­fer from you on that vital point, what is your plat­form re­source? In­stant­ly to turn upon me, charg­ing that I have no sense of the enor­mi­ty of the crime it­self, but am its aider and abet­tor! So, an­oth­er time—tak­ing me as rep­re­sent­ing your op­po­nent in other cases—you set up a plat­form creduli­ty; a moved and sec­ond­ed and car­ried-unan­i­mous­ly pro­fes­sion of faith in some ridicu­lous delu­sion or mis­chievous im­po­si­tion. I de­cline to be­lieve it, and you fall back upon your plat­form re­source of pro­claim­ing that I be­lieve noth­ing; that be­cause I will not bow down to a false God of your mak­ing, I deny the true God! An­oth­er time you make the plat­form dis­cov­ery that War is a calami­ty, and you pro­pose to abol­ish it by a string of twist­ed res­o­lu­tions tossed into the air like the tail of a kite. I do not admit the dis­cov­ery to be yours in the least, and I have not a grain of faith in your rem­e­dy. Again, your plat­form re­source of rep­re­sent­ing me as rev­el­ling in the hor­rors of a bat­tle-field like a fiend in­car­nate! An­oth­er time, in an­oth­er of your undis­crim­i­nat­ing plat­form rush­es, you would pun­ish the sober for the drunk­en. I claim con­sid­er­a­tion for the com­fort, con­ve­nience, and re­fresh­ment of the sober; and you present­ly make plat­form procla­ma­tion that I have a de­praved de­sire to turn Heav­en’s crea­tures into swine and wild beasts! In all such cases your movers, and your sec­on­ders, and your sup­port­ers—your reg­u­lar Pro­fes­sors of all de­grees, run amuck like so many mad Malays; ha­bit­u­al­ly at­tribut­ing the low­est and basest mo­tives with the ut­most reck­less­ness (let me call your at­ten­tion to a re­cent in­stance in your­self for which you should blush), and quot­ing fig­ures which you know to be as wil­ful­ly onesid­ed as a state­ment of any com­pli­cat­ed ac­count that should be all Cred­i­tor side and no Debtor, or all Debtor side and no Cred­i­tor. There­fore it is, Mr. Hon­eythun­der, that I con­sid­er the plat­form a suf­fi­cient­ly bad ex­am­ple and a suf­fi­cient­ly bad school, even in pub­lic life; but hold that, car­ried into pri­vate life, it be­comes an un­en­durable nui­sance.’

‘These are strong words, sir!’ ex­claimed the Phi­lan­thropist.

‘I hope so,’ said Mr. Crisparkle. ‘Good morn­ing.’

He walked out of the Haven at a great rate, but soon fell into his reg­u­lar brisk pace, and soon had a smile upon his face as he went along, won­der­ing what the china shep­herdess would have said if she had seen him pound­ing Mr. Hon­eythun­der in the late lit­tle live­ly af­fair. For Mr. Crisparkle had just enough of harm­less van­i­ty to hope that he had hit hard, and to glow with the be­lief that he had trimmed the Phi­lan­throp­ic Jack­et pret­ty hand­some­ly.

He took him­self to Sta­ple Inn, but not to P. J. T. and Mr. Grew­gious. Full many a creak­ing stair he climbed be­fore he reached some attic rooms in a cor­ner, turned the latch of their un­bolt­ed door, and stood be­side the table of Neville Land­less.

An air of re­treat and soli­tude hung about the rooms and about their in­hab­i­tant. He was much worn, and so were they. Their slop­ing ceil­ings, cum­brous rusty locks and grates, and heavy wood­en bins and beams, slow­ly moul­der­ing with­al, had a pris­onous look, and he had the hag­gard face of a pris­on­er. Yet the sun­light shone in at the ugly gar­ret-win­dow, which had a pent­house to it­self thrust out among the tiles; and on the cracked and smoke-black­ened para­pet be­yond, some of the de­lud­ed spar­rows of the place rheumat­i­cal­ly hopped, like lit­tle feath­ered crip­ples who had left their crutch­es in their nests; and there was a play of liv­ing leaves at hand that changed the air, and made an im­per­fect sort of music in it that would have been melody in the coun­try.

The rooms were spar­e­ly fur­nished, but with good store of books. Ev­ery­thing ex­pressed the abode of a poor stu­dent. That Mr. Crisparkle had been ei­ther choos­er, lender, or donor of the books, or that he com­bined the three char­ac­ters, might have been eas­i­ly seen in the friend­ly beam of his eyes upon them as he en­tered.

‘How goes it, Neville?’

‘I am in good heart, Mr. Crisparkle, and work­ing away.’

‘I wish your eyes were not quite so large and not quite so bright,’ said the Minor Canon, slow­ly re­leas­ing the hand he had taken in his.

‘They bright­en at the sight of you,’ re­turned Neville. ‘If you were to fall away from me, they would soon be dull enough.’

‘Rally, rally!’ urged the other, in a stim­u­lat­ing tone. ‘Fight for it, Neville!’

‘If I were dying, I feel as if a word from you would rally me; if my pulse had stopped, I feel as if your touch would make it beat again,’ said Neville. ‘But I have ral­lied, and am doing fa­mous­ly.’

Mr. Crisparkle turned him with his face a lit­tle more to­wards the light.

‘I want to see a rud­di­er touch here, Neville,’ he said, in­di­cat­ing his own healthy cheek by way of pat­tern. ‘I want more sun to shine upon you.’

Neville drooped sud­den­ly, as he replied in a low­ered voice: ‘I am not hardy enough for that, yet. I may be­come so, but I can­not bear it yet. If you had gone through those Clois­ter­ham streets as I did; if you had seen, as I did, those avert­ed eyes, and the bet­ter sort of peo­ple silent­ly giv­ing me too much room to pass, that I might not touch them or come near them, you wouldn’t think it quite un­rea­son­able that I can­not go about in the day­light.’

‘My poor fel­low!’ said the Minor Canon, in a tone so pure­ly sym­pa­thet­ic that the young man caught his hand, ‘I never said it was un­rea­son­able; never thought so. But I should like you to do it.’

‘And that would give me the strongest mo­tive to do it. But I can­not yet. I can­not per­suade my­self that the eyes of even the stream of strangers I pass in this vast city look at me with­out sus­pi­cion. I feel marked and taint­ed, even when I go out—as I do only—at night. But the dark­ness cov­ers me then, and I take courage from it.’

Mr. Crisparkle laid a hand upon his shoul­der, and stood look­ing down at him.

‘If I could have changed my name,’ said Neville, ‘I would have done so. But as you wise­ly point­ed out to me, I can’t do that, for it would look like guilt. If I could have gone to some dis­tant place, I might have found re­lief in that, but the thing is not to be thought of, for the same rea­son. Hid­ing and es­cap­ing would be the con­struc­tion in ei­ther case. It seems a lit­tle hard to be so tied to a stake, and in­no­cent; but I don’t com­plain.’

‘And you must ex­pect no mir­a­cle to help you, Neville,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, com­pas­sion­ate­ly.

‘No, sir, I know that. The or­di­nary ful­ness of time and cir­cum­stances is all I have to trust to.’

‘It will right you at last, Neville.’

‘So I be­lieve, and I hope I may live to know it.’

But per­ceiv­ing that the de­spon­dent mood into which he was falling cast a shad­ow on the Minor Canon, and (it may be) feel­ing that the broad hand upon his shoul­der was not then quite as steady as its own nat­u­ral strength had ren­dered it when it first touched him just now, he bright­ened and said:

‘Ex­cel­lent cir­cum­stances for study, any­how! and you know, Mr. Crisparkle, what need I have of study in all ways. Not to men­tion that you have ad­vised me to study for the dif­fi­cult pro­fes­sion of the law, spe­cial­ly, and that of course I am guid­ing my­self by the ad­vice of such a friend and helper. Such a good friend and helper!’

He took the for­ti­fy­ing hand from his shoul­der, and kissed it. Mr. Crisparkle beamed at the books, but not so bright­ly as when he had en­tered.

‘I gath­er from your si­lence on the sub­ject that my late guardian is ad­verse, Mr. Crisparkle?’

The Minor Canon an­swered: ‘Your late guardian is a—a most un­rea­son­able per­son, and it sig­ni­fies noth­ing to any rea­son­able per­son whether he is adverse, perverse, or the reverse.’

‘Well for me that I have enough with econ­o­my to live upon,’ sighed Neville, half weari­ly and half cheer­i­ly, ‘while I wait to be learned, and wait to be right­ed! Else I might have proved the proverb, that while the grass grows, the steed starves!’

He opened some books as he said it, and was soon im­mersed in their in­ter­leaved and an­no­tat­ed pas­sages; while Mr. Crisparkle sat be­side him, ex­pound­ing, cor­rect­ing, and ad­vis­ing. The Minor Canon’s Cathe­dral du­ties made these vis­its of his dif­fi­cult to ac­com­plish, and only to be com­passed at in­ter­vals of many weeks. But they were as ser­vice­able as they were pre­cious to Neville Land­less.

When they had got through such stud­ies as they had in hand, they stood lean­ing on the win­dow-sill, and look­ing down upon the patch of gar­den. ‘Next week,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘you will cease to be alone, and will have a de­vot­ed com­pan­ion.’

‘And yet,’ re­turned Neville, ‘this seems an un­con­ge­nial place to bring my sis­ter to.’

‘I don’t think so,’ said the Minor Canon. ‘There is duty to be done here; and there are wom­an­ly feel­ing, sense, and courage want­ed here.’

‘I meant,’ ex­plained Neville, ‘that the sur­round­ings are so dull and un­wom­an­ly, and that He­le­na can have no suit­able friend or so­ci­ety here.’

‘You have only to re­mem­ber,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘that you are here your­self, and that she has to draw you into the sun­light.’

They were silent for a lit­tle while, and then Mr. Crisparkle began anew.

‘When we first spoke to­geth­er, Neville, you told me that your sis­ter had risen out of the dis­ad­van­tages of your past lives as su­pe­ri­or to you as the tower of Clois­ter­ham Cathe­dral is high­er than the chim­neys of Minor Canon Cor­ner. Do you re­mem­ber that?’

‘Right well!’

‘I was in­clined to think it at the time an en­thu­si­as­tic flight. No mat­ter what I think it now. What I would em­pha­sise is, that under the head of Pride your sis­ter is a great and op­por­tune ex­am­ple to you.’

‘Under all heads that are in­clud­ed in the com­po­si­tion of a fine char­ac­ter, she is.’

‘Say so; but take this one. Your sis­ter has learnt how to gov­ern what is proud in her na­ture. She can dom­i­nate it even when it is wound­ed through her sym­pa­thy with you. No doubt she has suf­fered deeply in those same streets where you suf­fered deeply. No doubt her life is dark­ened by the cloud that dark­ens yours. But bend­ing her pride into a grand com­po­sure that is not haughty or ag­gres­sive, but is a sus­tained con­fi­dence in you and in the truth, she has won her way through those streets until she pass­es along them as high in the gen­er­al re­spect as any one who treads them. Every day and hour of her life since Edwin Drood’s dis­ap­pear­ance, she has faced ma­lig­ni­ty and folly—for you—as only a brave na­ture well di­rect­ed can. So it will be with her to the end. An­oth­er and weak­er kind of pride might sink bro­ken-heart­ed, but never such a pride as hers: which knows no shrink­ing, and can get no mas­tery over her.’

The pale cheek be­side him flushed under the com­par­i­son, and the hint im­plied in it.

‘I will do all I can to im­i­tate her,’ said Neville.

‘Do so, and be a truly brave man, as she is a truly brave woman,’ an­swered Mr. Crisparkle stout­ly. ‘It is grow­ing dark. Will you go my way with me, when it is quite dark? Mind! it is not I who wait for dark­ness.’

Neville replied, that he would ac­com­pa­ny him di­rect­ly. But Mr. Crisparkle said he had a mo­ment’s call to make on Mr. Grew­gious as an act of cour­tesy, and would run across to that gen­tle­man’s cham­bers, and re­join Neville on his own doorstep, if he would come down there to meet him.

Mr. Grew­gious, bolt up­right as usual, sat tak­ing his wine in the dusk at his open win­dow; his wine­glass and de­canter on the round table at his elbow; him­self and his legs on the win­dow-seat; only one hinge in his whole body, like a boot­jack.

‘How do you do, rev­erend sir?’ said Mr. Grew­gious, with abun­dant of­fers of hos­pi­tal­i­ty, which were as cor­dial­ly de­clined as made. ‘And how is your charge get­ting on over the way in the set that I had the plea­sure of rec­om­mend­ing to you as va­cant and el­i­gi­ble?’

Mr. Crisparkle replied suit­ably.

‘I am glad you ap­prove of them,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘be­cause I en­ter­tain a sort of fancy for hav­ing him under my eye.’

As Mr. Grew­gious had to turn his eye up con­sid­er­ably be­fore he could see the cham­bers, the phrase was to be taken fig­u­ra­tive­ly and not lit­er­al­ly.

‘And how did you leave Mr. Jasper, rev­erend sir?’ said Mr. Grew­gious.

Mr. Crisparkle had left him pret­ty well.

‘And where did you leave Mr. Jasper, rev­erend sir?’ Mr. Crisparkle had left him at Clois­ter­ham.

‘And when did you leave Mr. Jasper, rev­erend sir?’ That morn­ing.

‘Umps!’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘He didn’t say he was com­ing, per­haps?’

‘Com­ing where?’

‘Any­where, for in­stance?’ said Mr. Grew­gious.

‘No.’

‘Be­cause here he is,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, who had asked all these ques­tions, with his pre­oc­cu­pied glance di­rect­ed out at win­dow. ‘And he don’t look agree­able, does he?’

Mr. Crisparkle was cran­ing to­wards the win­dow, when Mr. Grew­gious added:

‘If you will kind­ly step round here be­hind me, in the gloom of the room, and will cast your eye at the sec­ond-floor land­ing win­dow in yon­der house, I think you will hard­ly fail to see a slink­ing in­di­vid­u­al in whom I recog­nise our local friend.’

‘You are right!’ cried Mr. Crisparkle.

‘Umps!’ said Mr. Grew­gious. Then he added, turn­ing his face so abrupt­ly that his head near­ly came into col­li­sion with Mr. Crisparkle’s: ‘what should you say that our local friend was up to?’

The last pas­sage he had been shown in the Diary re­turned on Mr. Crisparkle’s mind with the force of a strong re­coil, and he asked Mr. Grew­gious if he thought it pos­si­ble that Neville was to be ha­rassed by the keep­ing of a watch upon him?

‘A watch?’ re­peat­ed Mr. Grew­gious mus­ing­ly. ‘Ay!’

‘Which would not only of it­self haunt and tor­ture his life,’ said Mr. Crisparkle warm­ly, ‘but would ex­pose him to the tor­ment of a per­pet­u­al­ly re­viv­ing sus­pi­cion, what­ev­er he might do, or wher­ev­er he might go.’

‘Ay!’ said Mr. Grew­gious mus­ing­ly still. ‘Do I see him wait­ing for you?’

‘No doubt you do.’

‘Then would you have the good­ness to ex­cuse my get­ting up to see you out, and to go out to join him, and to go the way that you were going, and to take no no­tice of our local friend?’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘I en­ter­tain a sort of fancy for hav­ing him under my eye to-night, do you know?’

Mr. Crisparkle, with a sig­nif­i­cant need com­plied; and re­join­ing Neville, went away with him. They dined to­geth­er, and part­ed at the yet un­fin­ished and un­de­vel­oped rail­way sta­tion: Mr. Crisparkle to get home; Neville to walk the streets, cross the bridges, make a wide round of the city in the friend­ly dark­ness, and tire him­self out.

It was mid­night when he re­turned from his soli­tary ex­pe­di­tion and climbed his stair­case. The night was hot, and the win­dows of the stair­case were all wide open. Com­ing to the top, it gave him a pass­ing chill of sur­prise (there being no rooms but his up there) to find a stranger sit­ting on the win­dow-sill, more after the man­ner of a ven­ture­some glazier than an am­a­teur or­di­nar­i­ly care­ful of his neck; in fact, so much more out­side the win­dow than in­side, as to sug­gest the thought that he must have come up by the wa­ter-spout in­stead of the stairs.

The stranger said noth­ing until Neville put his key in his door; then, seem­ing to make sure of his iden­ti­ty from the ac­tion, he spoke:

‘I beg your par­don,’ he said, com­ing from the win­dow with a frank and smil­ing air, and a pre­pos­sess­ing ad­dress; ‘the beans.’

Neville was quite at a loss.

‘Run­ners,’ said the vis­i­tor. ‘Scar­let. Next door at the back.’

‘O,’ re­turned Neville. ‘And the mignonette and wall-flow­er?’

‘The same,’ said the vis­i­tor.

‘Pray walk in.’

‘Thank you.’

Neville light­ed his can­dles, and the vis­i­tor sat down. A hand­some gen­tle­man, with a young face, but with an older fig­ure in its ro­bust­ness and its breadth of shoul­der; say a man of eight-and-twen­ty, or at the ut­most thir­ty; so ex­treme­ly sun­burnt that the con­trast be­tween his brown vis­age and the white fore­head shad­ed out of doors by his hat, and the glimpses of white throat below the neck­er­chief, would have been al­most lu­di­crous but for his broad tem­ples, bright blue eyes, clus­ter­ing brown hair, and laugh­ing teeth.

‘I have no­ticed,’ said he; ‘—my name is Tar­tar.’

Neville in­clined his head.

‘I have no­ticed (ex­cuse me) that you shut your­self up a good deal, and that you seem to like my gar­den aloft here. If you would like a lit­tle more of it, I could throw out a few lines and stays be­tween my win­dows and yours, which the run­ners would take to di­rect­ly. And I have some boxes, both of mignonette and wall-flow­er, that I could shove on along the gut­ter (with a boathook I have by me) to your win­dows, and draw back again when they want­ed wa­ter­ing or gar­den­ing, and shove on again when they were ship-shape; so that they would cause you no trou­ble. I couldn’t take this lib­er­ty with­out ask­ing your per­mis­sion, so I ven­ture to ask it. Tar­tar, cor­re­spond­ing set, next door.’

‘You are very kind.’

‘Not at all. I ought to apol­o­gise for look­ing in so late. But hav­ing no­ticed (ex­cuse me) that you gen­er­al­ly walk out at night, I thought I should in­con­ve­nience you least by await­ing your re­turn. I am al­ways afraid of in­con­ve­nienc­ing busy men, being an idle man.’

‘I should not have thought so, from your ap­pear­ance.’

‘No? I take it as a com­pli­ment. In fact, I was bred in the Royal Navy, and was First Lieu­tenant when I quit­ted it. But, an uncle dis­ap­point­ed in the ser­vice leav­ing me his prop­er­ty on con­di­tion that I left the Navy, I ac­cept­ed the for­tune, and re­signed my com­mis­sion.’

‘Late­ly, I pre­sume?’

‘Well, I had had twelve or fif­teen years of knock­ing about first. I came here some nine months be­fore you; I had had one crop be­fore you came. I chose this place, be­cause, hav­ing served last in a lit­tle corvette, I knew I should feel more at home where I had a con­stant op­por­tu­ni­ty of knock­ing my head against the ceil­ing. Be­sides, it would never do for a man who had been aboard ship from his boy­hood to turn lux­u­ri­ous all at once. Be­sides, again; hav­ing been ac­cus­tomed to a very short al­lowance of land all my life, I thought I’d feel my way to the com­mand of a land­ed es­tate, by be­gin­ning in boxes.’

Whim­si­cal­ly as this was said, there was a touch of merry earnest­ness in it that made it dou­bly whim­si­cal.

‘How­ev­er,’ said the Lieu­tenant, ‘I have talked quite enough about my­self. It is not my way, I hope; it has mere­ly been to pre­sent my­self to you nat­u­ral­ly. If you will allow me to take the lib­er­ty I have de­scribed, it will be a char­i­ty, for it will give me some­thing more to do. And you are not to sup­pose that it will en­tail any in­ter­rup­tion or in­tru­sion on you, for that is far from my in­ten­tion.’

Neville replied that he was great­ly obliged, and that he thank­ful­ly ac­cept­ed the kind pro­pos­al.

‘I am very glad to take your win­dows in tow,’ said the Lieu­tenant. ‘From what I have seen of you when I have been gar­den­ing at mine, and you have been look­ing on, I have thought you (ex­cuse me) rather too stu­dious and del­i­cate. May I ask, is your health at all af­fect­ed?’

‘I have un­der­gone some men­tal dis­tress,’ said Neville, con­fused, ‘which has stood me in the stead of ill­ness.’

‘Par­don me,’ said Mr. Tar­tar.

With the great­est del­i­ca­cy he shift­ed his ground to the win­dows again, and asked if he could look at one of them. On Neville’s open­ing it, he im­me­di­ate­ly sprang out, as if he were going aloft with a whole watch in an emer­gen­cy, and were set­ting a bright ex­am­ple.

‘For Heav­en’s sake,’ cried Neville, ‘don’t do that! Where are you going Mr. Tar­tar? You’ll be dashed to pieces!’

‘All well!’ said the Lieu­tenant, cool­ly look­ing about him on the house­top. ‘All taut and trim here. Those lines and stays shall be rigged be­fore you turn out in the morn­ing. May I take this short cut home, and say good-night?’

‘Mr. Tar­tar!’ urged Neville. ‘Pray! It makes me giddy to see you!’

But Mr. Tar­tar, with a wave of his hand and the deft­ness of a cat, had al­ready dipped through his scut­tle of scar­let run­ners with­out break­ing a leaf, and ‘gone below.’

Mr. Grew­gious, his bed­room win­dow-blind held aside with his hand, hap­pened at the mo­ment to have Neville’s cham­bers under his eye for the last time that night. For­tu­nate­ly his eye was on the front of the house and not the back, or this re­mark­able ap­pear­ance and dis­ap­pear­ance might have bro­ken his rest as a phe­nomenon. But Mr. Grew­gious see­ing noth­ing there, not even a light in the win­dows, his gaze wan­dered from the win­dows to the stars, as if he would have read in them some­thing that was hid­den from him. Many of us would, if we could; but none of us so much as know our let­ters in the stars yet—or seem like­ly to do it, in this state of ex­is­tence—and few lan­guages can be read until their al­pha­bets are mas­tered.


CHAP­TER XVIII
A SET­TLER IN CLOIS­TER­HAM

At about this time a stranger ap­peared in Clois­ter­ham; a white-haired per­son­age, with black eye­brows. Being but­toned up in a tight­ish blue surtout, with a buff waist­coat and gray trousers, he had some­thing of a mil­i­tary air, but he an­nounced him­self at the Crozi­er (the or­tho­dox hotel, where he put up with a port­man­teau) as an idle dog who lived upon his means; and he far­ther an­nounced that he had a mind to take a lodg­ing in the pic­turesque old city for a month or two, with a view of set­tling down there al­to­geth­er. Both an­nounce­ments were made in the cof­fee-room of the Crozi­er, to all whom it might or might not con­cern, by the stranger as he stood with his back to the empty fire­place, wait­ing for his fried sole, veal cut­let, and pint of sher­ry. And the wait­er (busi­ness being chron­i­cal­ly slack at the Crozi­er) rep­re­sent­ed all whom it might or might not con­cern, and ab­sorbed the whole of the in­for­ma­tion.

This gen­tle­man’s white head was un­usu­al­ly large, and his shock of white hair was un­usu­al­ly thick and ample. ‘I sup­pose, wait­er,’ he said, shak­ing his shock of hair, as a New­found­land dog might shake his be­fore sit­ting down to din­ner, ‘that a fair lodg­ing for a sin­gle buffer might be found in these parts, eh?’

The wait­er had no doubt of it.

‘Some­thing old,’ said the gen­tle­man. ‘Take my hat down for a mo­ment from that peg, will you? No, I don’t want it; look into it. What do you see writ­ten there?’

The wait­er read: ‘Datch­ery.’

‘Now you know my name,’ said the gen­tle­man; ‘Dick Datch­ery. Hang it up again. I was say­ing some­thing old is what I should pre­fer, some­thing odd and out of the way; some­thing ven­er­a­ble, ar­chi­tec­tural, and in­con­ve­nient.’

‘We have a good choice of in­con­ve­nient lodg­ings in the town, sir, I think,’ replied the wait­er, with mod­est con­fi­dence in its re­sources that way; ‘in­deed, I have no doubt that we could suit you that far, how­ev­er par­tic­u­lar you might be. But a ar­chi­tec­tural lodg­ing!’ That seemed to trou­ble the wait­er’s head, and he shook it.

‘Any­thing Cathe­draly, now,’ Mr. Datch­ery sug­gest­ed.

‘Mr. Tope,’ said the wait­er, bright­en­ing, as he rubbed his chin with his hand, ‘would be the like­li­est party to in­form in that line.’

‘Who is Mr. Tope?’ in­quired Dick Datch­ery.

The wait­er ex­plained that he was the Verg­er, and that Mrs. Tope had in­deed once upon a time let lodg­ings her­self or of­fered to let them; but that as no­body had ever taken them, Mrs. Tope’s win­dow-bill, long a Clois­ter­ham In­sti­tu­tion, had dis­ap­peared; prob­a­bly had tum­bled down one day, and never been put up again.

‘I’ll call on Mrs. Tope,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, ‘after din­ner.’

So when he had done his din­ner, he was duly di­rect­ed to the spot, and sal­lied out for it. But the Crozi­er being an hotel of a most re­tir­ing dis­po­si­tion, and the wait­er’s di­rec­tions being fa­tal­ly pre­cise, he soon be­came be­wil­dered, and went bog­gling about and about the Cathe­dral Tower, when­ev­er he could catch a glimpse of it, with a gen­er­al im­pres­sion on his mind that Mrs. Tope’s was some­where very near it, and that, like the chil­dren in the game of hot boiled beans and very good but­ter, he was warm in his search when he saw the Tower, and cold when he didn’t see it.

He was get­ting very cold in­deed when he came upon a frag­ment of buri­al-ground in which an un­hap­py sheep was graz­ing. Un­hap­py, be­cause a hideous small boy was ston­ing it through the rail­ings, and had al­ready lamed it in one leg, and was much ex­cit­ed by the benev­o­lent sports­man­like pur­pose of break­ing its other three legs, and bring­ing it down.

‘’It ’im agin!’ cried the boy, as the poor crea­ture leaped; ‘and made a dint in his wool.’

‘Let him be!’ said Mr. Datch­ery. ‘Don’t you see you have lamed him?’

‘Yer lie,’ re­turned the sports­man. ‘’E went and lamed is­self. I see ’im do it, and I giv’ ’im a shy as a Wid­dy-warn­ing to ’im not to go a-bruisin’ ’is mas­ter’s mut­ton any more.’

‘Come here.’

‘I won’t; I’ll come when yer can ketch me.’

‘Stay there then, and show me which is Mr. Tope’s.’

‘Ow can I stay here and show you which is Tope­seses, when Tope­seses is t’other side the Kin­freed­er­al, and over the cross­ings, and round ever so many com­ers? Stoo-pid! Ya-a-ah!’

‘Show me where it is, and I’ll give you some­thing.’

‘Come on, then.’

This brisk di­a­logue con­clud­ed, the boy led the way, and by-and-by stopped at some dis­tance from an arched pas­sage, point­ing.

‘Look­ie yon­der. You see that there winder and door?’

‘That’s Tope’s?’

‘Yer lie; it ain’t. That’s Jarsper’s.’

‘In­deed?’ said Mr. Datch­ery, with a sec­ond look of some in­ter­est.

‘Yes, and I ain’t a-goin’ no near­er ’Im, I tell yer.’

‘Why not?’

‘’Cos I ain’t a-goin’ to be lift­ed off my legs and ’ave my braces bust and be choked; not if I knows it, and not by ‘Im. Wait till I set a jolly good flint a-fly­in’ at the back o’ ’is jolly old ’ed some day! Now look t’other side the harch; not the side where Jarsper’s door is; t’other side.’

‘I see.’

‘A lit­tle way in, o’ that side, there’s a low door, down two steps. That’s Tope­seses with ’is name on a hoval plate.’

‘Good. See here,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, pro­duc­ing a shilling. ‘You owe me half of this.’

‘Yer lie! I don’t owe yer noth­ing; I never seen yer.’

‘I tell you you owe me half of this, be­cause I have no six­pence in my pock­et. So the next time you meet me you shall do some­thing else for me, to pay me.’

‘All right, give us ’old.’

‘What is your name, and where do you live?’

‘Deputy. Trav­ellers’ Twopen­ny, ’cross the green.’

The boy in­stant­ly dart­ed off with the shilling, lest Mr. Datch­ery should re­pent, but stopped at a safe dis­tance, on the happy chance of his being un­easy in his mind about it, to goad him with a demon dance ex­pres­sive of its ir­re­vo­ca­bil­i­ty.

Mr. Datch­ery, tak­ing off his hat to give that shock of white hair of his an­oth­er shake, seemed quite re­signed, and be­took him­self whith­er he had been di­rect­ed.

Mr. Tope’s of­fi­cial dwelling, com­mu­ni­cat­ing by an upper stair with Mr. Jasper’s (hence Mrs. Tope’s at­ten­dance on that gen­tle­man), was of very mod­est pro­por­tions, and par­took of the char­ac­ter of a cool dun­geon. Its an­cient walls were mas­sive, and its rooms rather seemed to have been dug out of them, than to have been de­signed be­fore­hand with any ref­er­ence to them. The main door opened at once on a cham­ber of no de­scrib­able shape, with a groined roof, which in its turn opened on an­oth­er cham­ber of no de­scrib­able shape, with an­oth­er groined roof: their win­dows small, and in the thick­ness of the walls. These two cham­bers, close as to their at­mo­sphere, and swarthy as to their il­lu­mi­na­tion by nat­u­ral light, were the apart­ments which Mrs. Tope had so long of­fered to an un­ap­pre­cia­tive city. Mr. Datch­ery, how­ev­er, was more ap­pre­cia­tive. He found that if he sat with the main door open he would enjoy the pass­ing so­ci­ety of all com­ers to and fro by the gate­way, and would have light enough. He found that if Mr. and Mrs. Tope, liv­ing over­head, used for their own egress and ingress a lit­tle side stair that came plump into the Precincts by a door open­ing out­ward, to the sur­prise and in­con­ve­nience of a lim­it­ed pub­lic of pedes­tri­ans in a nar­row way, he would be alone, as in a sep­a­rate res­i­dence. He found the rent mod­er­ate, and ev­ery­thing as quaint­ly in­con­ve­nient as he could de­sire. He agreed, there­fore, to take the lodg­ing then and there, and money down, pos­ses­sion to be had next evening, on con­di­tion that ref­er­ence was per­mit­ted him to Mr. Jasper as oc­cu­py­ing the gate­house, of which on the other side of the gate­way, the Verg­er’s hole-in-the-wall was an ap­panage or sub­sidiary part.

The poor dear gen­tle­man was very soli­tary and very sad, Mrs. Tope said, but she had no doubt he would ‘speak for her.’ Per­haps Mr. Datch­ery had heard some­thing of what had oc­curred there last win­ter?

Mr. Datch­ery had as con­fused a knowl­edge of the event in ques­tion, on try­ing to re­call it, as he well could have. He begged Mrs. Tope’s par­don when she found it in­cum­bent on her to cor­rect him in every de­tail of his sum­ma­ry of the facts, but plead­ed that he was mere­ly a sin­gle buffer get­ting through life upon his means as idly as he could, and that so many peo­ple were so con­stant­ly mak­ing away with so many other peo­ple, as to ren­der it dif­fi­cult for a buffer of an easy tem­per to pre­serve the cir­cum­stances of the sev­er­al cases un­mixed in his mind.

Mr. Jasper prov­ing will­ing to speak for Mrs. Tope, Mr. Datch­ery, who had sent up his card, was in­vit­ed to as­cend the postern stair­case. The Mayor was there, Mr. Tope said; but he was not to be re­gard­ed in the light of com­pa­ny, as he and Mr. Jasper were great friends.

‘I beg par­don,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, mak­ing a leg with his hat under his arm, as he ad­dressed him­self equal­ly to both gen­tle­men; ‘a self­ish pre­cau­tion on my part, and not per­son­al­ly in­ter­est­ing to any­body but my­self. But as a buffer liv­ing on his means, and hav­ing an idea of doing it in this love­ly place in peace and quiet, for re­main­ing span of life, I beg to ask if the Tope fam­i­ly are quite re­spectable?’

Mr. Jasper could an­swer for that with­out the slight­est hes­i­ta­tion.

‘That is enough, sir,’ said Mr. Datch­ery.

‘My friend the Mayor,’ added Mr. Jasper, pre­sent­ing Mr. Datch­ery with a court­ly mo­tion of his hand to­wards that po­ten­tate; ‘whose rec­om­men­da­tion is ac­tu­al­ly much more im­por­tant to a stranger than that of an ob­scure per­son like my­self, will tes­ti­fy in their be­half, I am sure.’

‘The Wor­ship­ful the Mayor,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, with a low bow, ‘places me under an in­fi­nite obli­ga­tion.’

‘Very good peo­ple, sir, Mr. and Mrs. Tope,’ said Mr. Sapsea, with con­de­scen­sion. ‘Very good opin­ions. Very well be­haved. Very re­spect­ful. Much ap­proved by the Dean and Chap­ter.’

‘The Wor­ship­ful the Mayor gives them a char­ac­ter,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, ‘of which they may in­deed be proud. I would ask His Hon­our (if I might be per­mit­ted) whether there are not many ob­jects of great in­ter­est in the city which is under his benef­i­cent sway?’

‘We are, sir,’ re­turned Mr. Sapsea, ‘an an­cient city, and an ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal city. We are a con­sti­tu­tion­al city, as it be­comes such a city to be, and we up­hold and main­tain our glo­ri­ous priv­i­leges.’

‘His Hon­our,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, bow­ing, ‘in­spires me with a de­sire to know more of the city, and con­firms me in my in­cli­na­tion to end my days in the city.’

‘Re­tired from the Army, sir?’ sug­gest­ed Mr. Sapsea.

‘His Hon­our the Mayor does me too much cred­it,’ re­turned Mr. Datch­ery.

‘Navy, sir?’ sug­gest­ed Mr. Sapsea.

‘Again,’ re­peat­ed Mr. Datch­ery, ‘His Hon­our the Mayor does me too much cred­it.’

‘Diplo­ma­cy is a fine pro­fes­sion,’ said Mr. Sapsea, as a gen­er­al re­mark.

‘There, I con­fess, His Hon­our the Mayor is too many for me,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, with an in­ge­nious smile and bow; ‘even a diplo­mat­ic bird must fall to such a gun.’

Now this was very sooth­ing. Here was a gen­tle­man of a great, not to say a grand, ad­dress, ac­cus­tomed to rank and dig­ni­ty, re­al­ly set­ting a fine ex­am­ple how to be­have to a Mayor. There was some­thing in that third-per­son style of being spo­ken to, that Mr. Sapsea found par­tic­u­lar­ly recog­nisant of his mer­its and po­si­tion.

‘But I crave par­don,’ said Mr. Datch­ery. ‘His Hon­our the Mayor will bear with me, if for a mo­ment I have been de­lud­ed into oc­cu­py­ing his time, and have for­got­ten the hum­ble claims upon my own, of my hotel, the Crozi­er.’

‘Not at all, sir,’ said Mr. Sapsea. ‘I am re­turn­ing home, and if you would like to take the ex­te­ri­or of our Cathe­dral in your way, I shall be glad to point it out.’

‘His Hon­our the Mayor,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, ‘is more than kind and gra­cious.’

As Mr. Datch­ery, when he had made his ac­knowl­edg­ments to Mr. Jasper, could not be in­duced to go out of the room be­fore the Wor­ship­ful, the Wor­ship­ful led the way down-stairs; Mr. Datch­ery fol­low­ing with his hat under his arm, and his shock of white hair stream­ing in the evening breeze.

‘Might I ask His Hon­our,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, ‘whether that gen­tle­man we have just left is the gen­tle­man of whom I have heard in the neigh­bour­hood as being much af­flict­ed by the loss of a nephew, and con­cen­trat­ing his life on aveng­ing the loss?’

‘That is the gen­tle­man. John Jasper, sir.’

‘Would His Hon­our allow me to in­quire whether there are strong sus­pi­cions of any one?’

‘More than sus­pi­cions, sir,’ re­turned Mr. Sapsea; ‘all but cer­tain­ties.’

‘Only think now!’ cried Mr. Datch­ery.

‘But proof, sir, proof must be built up stone by stone,’ said the Mayor. ‘As I say, the end crowns the work. It is not enough that jus­tice should be moral­ly cer­tain; she must be im­moral­ly cer­tain—legal­ly, that is.’

‘His Hon­our,’ said Mr. Datch­ery, ‘re­minds me of the na­ture of the law. Im­moral. How true!’

‘As I say, sir,’ pompous­ly went on the Mayor, ‘the arm of the law is a strong arm, and a long arm. That is the may I put it. A strong arm and a long arm.’

‘How forcible!—And yet, again, how true!’ mur­mured Mr. Datch­ery.

‘And with­out be­tray­ing, what I call the se­crets of the prison-house,’ said Mr. Sapsea; ‘the se­crets of the prison-house is the term I used on the bench.’

‘And what other term than His Hon­our’s would ex­press it?’ said Mr. Datch­ery.

‘With­out, I say, be­tray­ing them, I pre­dict to you, know­ing the iron will of the gen­tle­man we have just left (I take the bold step of call­ing it iron, on ac­count of its strength), that in this case the long arm will reach, and the strong arm will strike.—This is our Cathe­dral, sir. The best judges are pleased to ad­mire it, and the best among our towns­men own to being a lit­tle vain of it.’

All this time Mr. Datch­ery had walked with his hat under his arm, and his white hair stream­ing. He had an odd mo­men­tary ap­pear­ance upon him of hav­ing for­got­ten his hat, when Mr. Sapsea now touched it; and he clapped his hand up to his head as if with some vague ex­pec­ta­tion of find­ing an­oth­er hat upon it.

‘Pray be cov­ered, sir,’ en­treat­ed Mr. Sapsea; mag­nif­i­cent­ly ply­ing: ‘I shall not mind it, I as­sure you.’

‘His Hon­our is very good, but I do it for cool­ness,’ said Mr. Datch­ery.

Then Mr. Datch­ery ad­mired the Cathe­dral, and Mr. Sapsea point­ed it out as if he him­self had in­vent­ed and built it: there were a few de­tails in­deed of which he did not ap­prove, but those he glossed over, as if the work­men had made mis­takes in his ab­sence. The Cathe­dral dis­posed of, he led the way by the church­yard, and stopped to extol the beau­ty of the evening—by chance—in the im­me­di­ate vicin­i­ty of Mrs. Sapsea’s epi­taph.

‘And by the by,’ said Mr. Sapsea, ap­pear­ing to de­scend from an el­e­va­tion to re­mem­ber it all of a sud­den; like Apol­lo shoot­ing down from Olym­pus to pick up his for­got­ten lyre; ‘that is one of our small lions. The par­tial­i­ty of our peo­ple has made it so, and strangers have been seen tak­ing a copy of it now and then. I am not a judge of it my­self, for it is a lit­tle work of my own. But it was trou­ble­some to turn, sir; I may say, dif­fi­cult to turn with el­e­gance.’

Mr. Datch­ery be­came so ec­stat­ic over Mr. Sapsea’s com­po­si­tion, that, in spite of his in­ten­tion to end his days in Clois­ter­ham, and there­fore his prob­a­bly hav­ing in re­serve many op­por­tu­ni­ties of copy­ing it, he would have tran­scribed it into his pock­et-book on the spot, but for the slouch­ing to­wards them of its ma­te­ri­al pro­duc­er and per­pet­u­a­tor, Dur­dles, whom Mr. Sapsea hailed, not sorry to show him a bright ex­am­ple of be­haviour to su­pe­ri­ors.

‘Ah, Dur­dles! This is the mason, sir; one of our Clois­ter­ham wor­thies; ev­ery­body here knows Dur­dles. Mr. Datch­ery, Dur­dles a gen­tle­man who is going to set­tle here.’

‘I wouldn’t do it if I was him,’ growled Dur­dles. ‘We’re a heavy lot.’

‘You sure­ly don’t speak for your­self, Mr. Dur­dles,’ re­turned Mr. Datch­ery, ‘any more than for His Hon­our.’

‘Who’s His Hon­our?’ de­mand­ed Dur­dles.

‘His Hon­our the Mayor.’

‘I never was brought afore him,’ said Dur­dles, with any­thing but the look of a loyal sub­ject of the may­oral­ty, ‘and it’ll be time enough for me to Hon­our him when I am. Until which, and when, and where,

“Mis­ter Sapsea is his name,

Eng­land is his na­tion,

Clois­ter­ham’s his dwelling-place,

Auk­sh­neer’s his oc­cu­pa­tion.”’

Here, Deputy (pre­ced­ed by a fly­ing oys­ter-shell) ap­peared upon the scene, and re­quest­ed to have the sum of three­pence in­stant­ly ‘chucked’ to him by Mr. Dur­dles, whom he had been vain­ly seek­ing up and down, as law­ful wages over­due. While that gen­tle­man, with his bun­dle under his arm, slow­ly found and count­ed out the money, Mr. Sapsea in­formed the new set­tler of Dur­dles’s habits, pur­suits, abode, and rep­u­ta­tion. ‘I sup­pose a cu­ri­ous stranger might come to see you, and your works, Mr. Dur­dles, at any odd time?’ said Mr. Datch­ery upon that.

‘Any gen­tle­man is wel­come to come and see me any evening if he brings liquor for two with him,’ re­turned Dur­dles, with a penny be­tween his teeth and cer­tain half­pence in his hands; ‘or if he likes to make it twice two, he’ll be dou­bly wel­come.’

‘I shall come. Mas­ter Deputy, what do you owe me?’

‘A job.’

‘Mind you pay me hon­est­ly with the job of show­ing me Mr. Dur­dles’s house when I want to go there.’

Deputy, with a pierc­ing broad­side of whis­tle through the whole gap in his mouth, as a re­ceipt in full for all ar­rears, van­ished.

The Wor­ship­ful and the Wor­ship­per then passed on to­geth­er until they part­ed, with many cer­e­monies, at the Wor­ship­ful’s door; even then the Wor­ship­per car­ried his hat under his arm, and gave his stream­ing white hair to the breeze.

Said Mr. Datch­ery to him­self that night, as he looked at his white hair in the gas-light­ed look­ing-glass over the cof­fee-room chim­ney­p­iece at the Crozi­er, and shook it out: ‘For a sin­gle buffer, of an easy tem­per, liv­ing idly on his means, I have had a rather busy af­ter­noon!’


CHAP­TER XIX
SHAD­OW ON THE SUN-DI­AL

Again Miss Twin­kle­ton has de­liv­ered her vale­dic­to­ry ad­dress, with the ac­com­pa­ni­ments of white-wine and pound-cake, and again the young ladies have de­part­ed to their sev­er­al homes. He­le­na Land­less has left the Nuns’ House to at­tend her broth­er’s for­tunes, and pret­ty Rosa is alone.

Clois­ter­ham is so bright and sunny in these sum­mer days, that the Cathe­dral and the monastery-ru­in show as if their strong walls were trans­par­ent. A soft glow seems to shine from with­in them, rather than upon them from with­out, such is their mel­low­ness as they look forth on the hot corn-fields and the smok­ing roads that dis­tant­ly wind among them. The Clois­ter­ham gar­dens blush with ripen­ing fruit. Time was when trav­el-stained pil­grims rode in clat­ter­ing par­ties through the city’s wel­come shades; time is when way­far­ers, lead­ing a gipsy life be­tween hay­mak­ing time and har­vest, and look­ing as if they were just made of the dust of the earth, so very dusty are they, lounge about on cool door-steps, try­ing to mend their un­mend­able shoes, or giv­ing them to the city ken­nels as a hope­less job, and seek­ing oth­ers in the bun­dles that they carry, along with their yet un­used sick­les swathed in bands of straw. At all the more pub­lic pumps there is much cool­ing of bare feet, to­geth­er with much bub­bling and gur­gling of drink­ing with hand to spout on the part of these Bedouins; the Clois­ter­ham po­lice mean­while look­ing askant from their beats with sus­pi­cion, and man­i­fest im­pa­tience that the in­trud­ers should de­part from with­in the civic bounds, and once more fry them­selves on the sim­mer­ing high-roads.

On the af­ter­noon of such a day, when the last Cathe­dral ser­vice is done, and when that side of the High Street on which the Nuns’ House stands is in grate­ful shade, save where its quaint old gar­den opens to the west be­tween the boughs of trees, a ser­vant in­forms Rosa, to her ter­ror, that Mr. Jasper de­sires to see her.

If he had cho­sen his time for find­ing her at a dis­ad­van­tage, he could have done no bet­ter. Per­haps he has cho­sen it. He­le­na Land­less is gone, Mrs. Tish­er is ab­sent on leave, Miss Twin­kle­ton (in her am­a­teur state of ex­is­tence) has con­tribut­ed her­self and a veal pie to a pic­nic.

‘O why, why, why, did you say I was at home!’ cried Rosa, help­less­ly.

The maid replies, that Mr. Jasper never asked the ques­tion.

That he said he knew she was at home, and begged she might be told that he asked to see her.

‘What shall I do! what shall I do!’ thinks Rosa, clasp­ing her hands.

Pos­sessed by a kind of des­per­a­tion, she adds in the next breath, that she will come to Mr. Jasper in the gar­den. She shud­ders at the thought of being shut up with him in the house; but many of its win­dows com­mand the gar­den, and she can be seen as well as heard there, and can shriek in the free air and run away. Such is the wild idea that flut­ters through her mind.

She has never seen him since the fatal night, ex­cept when she was ques­tioned be­fore the Mayor, and then he was pre­sent in gloomy watch­ful­ness, as rep­re­sent­ing his lost nephew and burn­ing to avenge him. She hangs her gar­den-hat on her arm, and goes out. The mo­ment she sees him from the porch, lean­ing on the sun-di­al, the old hor­ri­ble feel­ing of being com­pelled by him, as­serts its hold upon her. She feels that she would even then go back, but that he draws her feet to­wards him. She can­not re­sist, and sits down, with her head bent, on the gar­den-seat be­side the sun-di­al. She can­not look up at him for ab­hor­rence, but she has per­ceived that he is dressed in deep mourn­ing. So is she. It was not so at first; but the lost has long been given up, and mourned for, as dead.

He would begin by touch­ing her hand. She feels the in­ten­tion, and draws her hand back. His eyes are then fixed upon her, she knows, though her own see noth­ing but the grass.

‘I have been wait­ing,’ he be­gins, ‘for some time, to be sum­moned back to my duty near you.’

After sev­er­al times form­ing her lips, which she knows he is close­ly watch­ing, into the shape of some other hes­i­tat­ing reply, and then into none, she an­swers: ‘Duty, sir?’

‘The duty of teach­ing you, serv­ing you as your faith­ful mu­sic-mas­ter.’

‘I have left off that study.’

‘Not left off, I think. Dis­con­tin­ued. I was told by your guardian that you dis­con­tin­ued it under the shock that we have all felt so acute­ly. When will you re­sume?’

‘Never, sir.’

‘Never? You could have done no more if you had loved my dear boy.’

‘I did love him!’ cried Rosa, with a flash of anger.

‘Yes; but not quite—not quite in the right way, shall I say? Not in the in­tend­ed and ex­pect­ed way. Much as my dear boy was, un­hap­pi­ly, too self-con­scious and self-sat­is­fied (I’ll draw no par­al­lel be­tween him and you in that re­spect) to love as he should have loved, or as any one in his place would have loved—must have loved!’

She sits in the same still at­ti­tude, but shrink­ing a lit­tle more.

‘Then, to be told that you dis­con­tin­ued your study with me, was to be po­lite­ly told that you aban­doned it al­to­geth­er?’ he sug­gest­ed.

‘Yes,’ says Rosa, with sud­den spir­it, ‘The po­lite­ness was my guardian’s, not mine. I told him that I was re­solved to leave off, and that I was de­ter­mined to stand by my res­o­lu­tion.’

‘And you still are?’

‘I still am, sir. And I beg not to be ques­tioned any more about it. At all events, I will not an­swer any more; I have that in my power.’

She is so con­scious of his look­ing at her with a gloat­ing ad­mi­ra­tion of the touch of anger on her, and the fire and an­i­ma­tion it brings with it, that even as her spir­it rises, it falls again, and she strug­gles with a sense of shame, af­front, and fear, much as she did that night at the piano.

‘I will not ques­tion you any more, since you ob­ject to it so much; I will con­fess—’

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

This time he does touch her with his out­stretched hand. In shrink­ing from it, she shrinks into her seat again.

‘We must some­times act in op­po­si­tion to our wish­es,’ he tells her in a low voice. ‘You must do so now, or do more harm to oth­ers than you can ever set right.’

‘What harm?’

‘Present­ly, present­ly. You ques­tion me, you see, and sure­ly that’s not fair when you for­bid me to ques­tion you. Nev­er­the­less, I will an­swer the ques­tion present­ly. Dear­est Rosa! Charm­ing Rosa!’

She starts up again.

This time he does not touch her. But his face looks so wicked and men­ac­ing, as he stands lean­ing against the sun-di­al-set­ting, as it were, his black mark upon the very face of day—that her flight is ar­rest­ed by hor­ror as she looks at him.

‘I do not for­get how many win­dows com­mand a view of us,’ he says, glanc­ing to­wards them. ‘I will not touch you again; I will come no near­er to you than I am. Sit down, and there will be no mighty won­der in your mu­sic-mas­ter’s lean­ing idly against a pedestal and speak­ing with you, re­mem­ber­ing all that has hap­pened, and our shares in it. Sit down, my beloved.’

She would have gone once more—was all but gone—and once more his face, dark­ly threat­en­ing what would fol­low if she went, has stopped her. Look­ing at him with the ex­pres­sion of the in­stant frozen on her face, she sits down on the seat again.

‘Rosa, even when my dear boy was af­fi­anced to you, I loved you madly; even when I thought his hap­pi­ness in hav­ing you for his wife was cer­tain, I loved you madly; even when I strove to make him more ar­dent­ly de­vot­ed to you, I loved you madly; even when he gave me the pic­ture of your love­ly face so care­less­ly tra­duced by him, which I feigned to hang al­ways in my sight for his sake, but wor­shipped in tor­ment for years, I loved you madly; in the dis­taste­ful work of the day, in the wake­ful mis­ery of the night, gird­ed by sor­did re­al­i­ties, or wan­der­ing through Par­adis­es and Hells of vi­sions into which I rushed, car­ry­ing your image in my arms, I loved you madly.’

If any­thing could make his words more hideous to her than they are in them­selves, it would be the con­trast be­tween the vi­o­lence of his look and de­liv­ery, and the com­po­sure of his as­sumed at­ti­tude.

‘I en­dured it all in si­lence. So long as you were his, or so long as I sup­posed you to be his, I hid my se­cret loy­al­ly. Did I not?’

This lie, so gross, while the mere words in which it is told are so true, is more than Rosa can en­dure. She an­swers with kin­dling in­dig­na­tion: ‘You were as false through­out, sir, as you are now. You were false to him, daily and hourly. You know that you made my life un­hap­py by your pur­suit of me. You know that you made me afraid to open his gen­er­ous eyes, and that you forced me, for his own trust­ing, good, good sake, to keep the truth from him, that you were a bad, bad man!’

His preser­va­tion of his easy at­ti­tude ren­der­ing his work­ing fea­tures and his con­vul­sive hands ab­so­lute­ly di­a­bol­i­cal, he re­turns, with a fierce ex­treme of ad­mi­ra­tion:

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

Im­pa­tient tears rise to the eyes of the trem­bling lit­tle beau­ty, and her face flames; but as she again rises to leave him in in­dig­na­tion, and seek pro­tec­tion with­in the house, he stretch­es out his hand to­wards the porch, as though he in­vit­ed her to enter it.

‘I told you, you rare charmer, you sweet witch, that you must stay and hear me, or do more harm than can ever be un­done. You asked me what harm. Stay, and I will tell you. Go, and I will do it!’

Again Rosa quails be­fore his threat­en­ing face, though in­no­cent of its mean­ing, and she re­mains. Her pant­ing breath­ing comes and goes as if it would choke her; but with a re­pres­sive hand upon her bosom, she re­mains.

‘I have made my con­fes­sion that my love is mad. It is so mad, that had the ties be­tween me and my dear lost boy been one silken thread less strong, I might have swept even him from your side, when you favoured him.’

A film comes over the eyes she rais­es for an in­stant, as though he had turned her faint.

‘Even him,’ he re­peats. ‘Yes, even him! Rosa, you see me and you hear me. Judge for your­self whether any other ad­mir­er shall love you and live, whose life is in my hand.’

‘What do you mean, sir?’

‘I mean to show you how mad my love is. It was hawked through the late in­quiries by Mr. Crisparkle, that young Land­less had con­fessed to him that he was a rival of my lost boy. That is an in­ex­pi­able of­fence in my eyes. The same Mr. Crisparkle knows under my hand that I have de­vot­ed my­self to the mur­der­er’s dis­cov­ery and de­struc­tion, be he whom he might, and that I de­ter­mined to dis­cuss the mys­tery with no one until I should hold the clue in which to en­tan­gle the mur­der­er as in a net. I have since worked pa­tient­ly to wind and wind it round him; and it is slow­ly wind­ing as I speak.’

‘Your be­lief, if you be­lieve in the crim­i­nal­i­ty of Mr. Land­less, is not Mr. Crisparkle’s be­lief, and he is a good man,’ Rosa re­torts.

‘My be­lief is my own; and I re­serve it, wor­shipped of my soul! Cir­cum­stances may ac­cu­mu­late so strong­ly even against an in­no­cent man, that di­rect­ed, sharp­ened, and point­ed, they may slay him. One want­ing link dis­cov­ered by per­se­ver­ance against a guilty man, proves his guilt, how­ev­er slight its ev­i­dence be­fore, and he dies. Young Land­less stands in dead­ly peril ei­ther way.’

‘If you re­al­ly sup­pose,’ Rosa pleads with him, turn­ing paler, ‘that I favour Mr. Land­less, or that Mr. Land­less has ever in any way ad­dressed him­self to me, you are wrong.’

He puts that from him with a slight­ing ac­tion of his hand and a curled lip.

‘I was going to show you how madly I love you. More madly now than ever, for I am will­ing to re­nounce the sec­ond ob­ject that has arisen in my life to di­vide it with you; and hence­forth to have no ob­ject in ex­is­tence but you only. Miss Land­less has be­come your bosom friend. You care for her peace of mind?’

‘I love her dear­ly.’

‘You care for her good name?’

‘I have said, sir, I love her dear­ly.’

‘I am un­con­scious­ly,’ he ob­serves with a smile, as he folds his hands upon the sun-di­al and leans his chin upon them, so that his talk would seem from the win­dows (faces oc­ca­sion­al­ly come and go there) to be of the airi­est and play­fullest—‘I am un­con­scious­ly giv­ing of­fence by ques­tion­ing again. I will sim­ply make state­ments, there­fore, and not put ques­tions. You do care for your bosom friend’s good name, and you do care for her peace of mind. Then re­move the shad­ow of the gal­lows from her, dear one!’

‘You dare pro­pose to me to—’

‘Dar­ling, I dare pro­pose to you. Stop there. If it be bad to idolise you, I am the worst of men; if it be good, I am the best. My love for you is above all other love, and my truth to you is above all other truth. Let me have hope and favour, and I am a for­sworn man for your sake.’

Rosa puts her hands to her tem­ples, and, push­ing back her hair, looks wild­ly and ab­hor­rent­ly at him, as though she were try­ing to piece to­geth­er what it is his deep pur­pose to pre­sent to her only in frag­ments.

‘Reck­on up noth­ing at this mo­ment, angel, but the sac­ri­fices that I lay at those dear feet, which I could fall down among the vilest ashes and kiss, and put upon my head as a poor sav­age might. There is my fi­deli­ty to my dear boy after death. Tread upon it!’

With an ac­tion of his hands, as though he cast down some­thing pre­cious.

‘There is the in­ex­pi­able of­fence against my ado­ra­tion of you. Spurn it!’

With a sim­i­lar ac­tion.

‘There are my labours in the cause of a just vengeance for six toil­ing months. Crush them!’

With an­oth­er rep­e­ti­tion of the ac­tion.

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

The fright­ful ve­he­mence of the man, now reach­ing its full height, so ad­di­tion­al­ly ter­ri­fies her as to break the spell that has held her to the spot. She swift­ly moves to­wards the porch; but in an in­stant he is at her side, and speak­ing in her ear.

‘Rosa, I am self-re­pressed again. I am walk­ing calm­ly be­side you to the house. I shall wait for some en­cour­age­ment and hope. I shall not strike too soon. Give me a sign that you at­tend to me.’

She slight­ly and con­strained­ly moves her hand.

‘Not a word of this to any one, or it will bring down the blow, as cer­tain­ly as night fol­lows day. An­oth­er sign that you at­tend to me.’

She moves her hand once more.

‘I love you, love you, love you! If you were to cast me off now—but you will not—you would never be rid of me. No one should come be­tween us. I would pur­sue you to the death.’

The hand­maid com­ing out to open the gate for him, he qui­et­ly pulls off his hat as a part­ing salute, and goes away with no greater show of ag­i­ta­tion than is vis­i­ble in the ef­fi­gy of Mr. Sapsea’s fa­ther op­po­site. Rosa faints in going up-stairs, and is care­ful­ly car­ried to her room and laid down on her bed. A thun­der­storm is com­ing on, the maids say, and the hot and sti­fling air has over­set the pret­ty dear: no won­der; they have felt their own knees all of a trem­ble all day long.


CHAP­TER XX
A FLIGHT

Rosa no soon­er came to her­self than the whole of the late in­ter­view was be­fore her. It even seemed as if it had pur­sued her into her in­sen­si­bil­i­ty, and she had not had a mo­ment’s un­con­scious­ness of it. What to do, she was at a fright­ened loss to know: the only one clear thought in her mind was, that she must fly from this ter­ri­ble man.

But where could she take refuge, and how could she go? She had never breathed her dread of him to any one but He­le­na. If she went to He­le­na, and told her what had passed, that very act might bring down the ir­repara­ble mis­chief that he threat­ened he had the power, and that she knew he had the will, to do. The more fear­ful he ap­peared to her ex­cit­ed mem­o­ry and imag­i­na­tion, the more alarm­ing her re­spon­si­bil­i­ty ap­peared; see­ing that a slight mis­take on her part, ei­ther in ac­tion or delay, might let his malev­o­lence loose on He­le­na’s broth­er.

Rosa’s mind through­out the last six months had been stormi­ly con­fused. A half-formed, whol­ly un­ex­pressed sus­pi­cion tossed in it, now heav­ing it­self up, and now sink­ing into the deep; now gain­ing pal­pa­bil­i­ty, and now los­ing it. Jasper’s self-ab­sorp­tion in his nephew when he was alive, and his un­ceas­ing pur­suit of the in­quiry how he came by his death, if he were dead, were themes so rife in the place, that no one ap­peared able to sus­pect the pos­si­bil­i­ty of foul play at his hands. She had asked her­self the ques­tion, ‘Am I so wicked in my thoughts as to con­ceive a wicked­ness that oth­ers can­not imag­ine?’ Then she had con­sid­ered, Did the sus­pi­cion come of her pre­vi­ous re­coil­ing from him be­fore the fact? And if so, was not that a proof of its base­less­ness? Then she had re­flect­ed, ‘What mo­tive could he have, ac­cord­ing to my ac­cu­sa­tion?’ She was ashamed to an­swer in her mind, ‘The mo­tive of gain­ing me!’ And cov­ered her face, as if the light­est shad­ow of the idea of found­ing mur­der on such an idle van­i­ty were a crime al­most as great.

She ran over in her mind again, all that he had said by the sun-di­al in the gar­den. He had per­sist­ed in treat­ing the dis­ap­pear­ance as mur­der, con­sis­tent­ly with his whole pub­lic course since the find­ing of the watch and shirt-pin. If he were afraid of the crime being traced out, would he not rather en­cour­age the idea of a vol­un­tary dis­ap­pear­ance? He had even de­clared that if the ties be­tween him and his nephew had been less strong, he might have swept ‘even him’ away from her side. Was that like his hav­ing re­al­ly done so? He had spo­ken of lay­ing his six months’ labours in the cause of a just vengeance at her feet. Would he have done that, with that vi­o­lence of pas­sion, if they were a pre­tence? Would he have ranged them with his des­o­late heart and soul, his wast­ed life, his peace and his de­spair? The very first sac­ri­fice that he rep­re­sent­ed him­self as mak­ing for her, was his fi­deli­ty to his dear boy after death. Sure­ly these facts were strong against a fancy that scarce­ly dared to hint it­self. And yet he was so ter­ri­ble a man! In short, the poor girl (for what could she know of the crim­i­nal in­tel­lect, which its own pro­fessed stu­dents per­pet­u­al­ly mis­read, be­cause they per­sist in try­ing to rec­on­cile it with the av­er­age in­tel­lect of av­er­age men, in­stead of iden­ti­fy­ing it as a hor­ri­ble won­der apart) could get by no road to any other con­clu­sion than that he was a ter­ri­ble man, and must be fled from.

She had been He­le­na’s stay and com­fort dur­ing the whole time. She had con­stant­ly as­sured her of her full be­lief in her broth­er’s in­no­cence, and of her sym­pa­thy with him in his mis­ery. But she had never seen him since the dis­ap­pear­ance, nor had He­le­na ever spo­ken one word of his avow­al to Mr. Crisparkle in re­gard of Rosa, though as a part of the in­ter­est of the case it was well known far and wide. He was He­le­na’s un­for­tu­nate broth­er, to her, and noth­ing more. The as­sur­ance she had given her odi­ous suit­or was strict­ly true, though it would have been bet­ter (she con­sid­ered now) if she could have re­strained her­self from so giv­ing it. Afraid of him as the bright and del­i­cate lit­tle crea­ture was, her spir­it swelled at the thought of his know­ing it from her own lips.

But where was she to go? Any­where be­yond his reach, was no reply to the ques­tion. Some­where must be thought of. She de­ter­mined to go to her guardian, and to go im­me­di­ate­ly. The feel­ing she had im­part­ed to He­le­na on the night of their first con­fi­dence, was so strong upon her—the feel­ing of not being safe from him, and of the solid walls of the old con­vent being pow­er­less to keep out his ghost­ly fol­low­ing of her—that no rea­son­ing of her own could calm her ter­rors. The fas­ci­na­tion of re­pul­sion had been upon her so long, and now cul­mi­nat­ed so dark­ly, that she felt as if he had power to bind her by a spell. Glanc­ing out at win­dow, even now, as she rose to dress, the sight of the sun-di­al on which he had leaned when he de­clared him­self, turned her cold, and made her shrink from it, as though he had in­vest­ed it with some awful qual­i­ty from his own na­ture.

She wrote a hur­ried note to Miss Twin­kle­ton, say­ing that she had sud­den rea­son for wish­ing to see her guardian prompt­ly, and had gone to him; also, en­treat­ing the good lady not to be un­easy, for all was well with her. She hur­ried a few quite use­less ar­ti­cles into a very lit­tle bag, left the note in a con­spic­u­ous place, and went out, soft­ly clos­ing the gate after her.

It was the first time she had ever been even in Clois­ter­ham High Street alone. But know­ing all its ways and wind­ings very well, she hur­ried straight to the cor­ner from which the om­nibus de­part­ed. It was, at that very mo­ment, going off.

‘Stop and take me, if you please, Joe. I am obliged to go to Lon­don.’

In less than an­oth­er minute she was on her road to the rail­way, under Joe’s pro­tec­tion. Joe wait­ed on her when she got there, put her safe­ly into the rail­way car­riage, and hand­ed in the very lit­tle bag after her, as though it were some enor­mous trunk, hun­dred­weights heavy, which she must on no ac­count en­deav­our to lift.

‘Can you go round when you get back, and tell Miss Twin­kle­ton that you saw me safe­ly off, Joe?’

‘It shall be done, Miss.’

‘With my love, please, Joe.’

‘Yes, Miss—and I wouldn’t mind hav­ing it my­self!’ But Joe did not ar­tic­u­late the last clause; only thought it.

Now that she was whirling away for Lon­don in real earnest, Rosa was at leisure to re­sume the thoughts which her per­son­al hurry had checked. The in­dig­nant thought that his dec­la­ra­tion of love soiled her; that she could only be cleansed from the stain of its im­pu­ri­ty by ap­peal­ing to the hon­est and true; sup­port­ed her for a time against her fears, and con­firmed her in her hasty res­o­lu­tion. But as the evening grew dark­er and dark­er, and the great city im­pend­ed near­er and near­er, the doubts usual in such cases began to arise. Whether this was not a wild pro­ceed­ing, after all; how Mr. Grew­gious might re­gard it; whether she should find him at the jour­ney’s end; how she would act if he were ab­sent; what might be­come of her, alone, in a place so strange and crowd­ed; how if she had but wait­ed and taken coun­sel first; whether, if she could now go back, she would not do it thank­ful­ly; a mul­ti­tude of such un­easy spec­u­la­tions dis­turbed her, more and more as they ac­cu­mu­lat­ed. At length the train came into Lon­don over the house­tops; and down below lay the grit­ty streets with their yet un-need­ed lamps a-glow, on a hot, light, sum­mer night.

‘Hiram Grew­gious, Es­quire, Sta­ple Inn, Lon­don.’ This was all Rosa knew of her des­ti­na­tion; but it was enough to send her rat­tling away again in a cab, through deserts of grit­ty streets, where many peo­ple crowd­ed at the cor­ner of courts and by­ways to get some air, and where many other peo­ple walked with a mis­er­ably monotonous noise of shuf­fling of feet on hot paving-stones, and where all the peo­ple and all their sur­round­ings were so grit­ty and so shab­by!

There was music play­ing here and there, but it did not en­liv­en the case. No bar­rel-or­gan mend­ed the mat­ter, and no big drum beat dull care away. Like the chapel bells that were also going here and there, they only seemed to evoke echoes from brick sur­faces, and dust from ev­ery­thing. As to the flat wind-in­stru­ments, they seemed to have cracked their hearts and souls in pin­ing for the coun­try.

Her jin­gling con­veyance stopped at last at a fast-closed gate­way, which ap­peared to be­long to some­body who had gone to bed very early, and was much afraid of house­break­ers; Rosa, dis­charg­ing her con­veyance, timid­ly knocked at this gate­way, and was let in, very lit­tle bag and all, by a watch­man.

‘Does Mr. Grew­gious live here?’

‘Mr. Grew­gious lives there, Miss,’ said the watch­man, point­ing fur­ther in.

So Rosa went fur­ther in, and, when the clocks were strik­ing ten, stood on P. J. T.’s doorsteps, won­der­ing what P. J. T. had done with his street-door.

Guid­ed by the paint­ed name of Mr. Grew­gious, she went up-stairs and soft­ly tapped and tapped sev­er­al times. But no one an­swer­ing, and Mr. Grew­gious’s door-han­dle yield­ing to her touch, she went in, and saw her guardian sit­ting on a win­dow-seat at an open win­dow, with a shad­ed lamp placed far from him on a table in a cor­ner.

Rosa drew near­er to him in the twi­light of the room. He saw her, and he said, in an un­der­tone: ‘Good Heav­en!’

Rosa fell upon his neck, with tears, and then he said, re­turn­ing her em­brace:

‘My child, my child! I thought you were your moth­er!—But what, what, what,’ he added, sooth­ing­ly, ‘has hap­pened? My dear, what has brought you here? Who has brought you here?’

‘No one. I came alone.’

‘Lord bless me!’ ejac­u­lat­ed Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Came alone! Why didn’t you write to me to come and fetch you?’

‘I had no time. I took a sud­den res­o­lu­tion. Poor, poor Eddy!’

‘Ah, poor fel­low, poor fel­low!’

‘His uncle has made love to me. I can­not bear it,’ said Rosa, at once with a burst of tears, and a stamp of her lit­tle foot; ‘I shud­der with hor­ror of him, and I have come to you to pro­tect me and all of us from him, if you will?’

‘I will,’ cried Mr. Grew­gious, with a sud­den rush of amaz­ing en­er­gy. ‘Damn him!

“Con­found his pol­i­tics!
Frus­trate his knav­ish tricks!
On Thee his hopes to fix?
Damn him again!”

After this most ex­traor­di­nary out­burst, Mr. Grew­gious, quite be­side him­self, plunged about the room, to all ap­pear­ance un­de­cid­ed whether he was in a fit of loyal en­thu­si­asm, or com­bat­ive de­nun­ci­a­tion.

He stopped and said, wip­ing his face: ‘I beg your par­don, my dear, but you will be glad to know I feel bet­ter. Tell me no more just now, or I might do it again. You must be re­freshed and cheered. What did you take last? Was it break­fast, lunch, din­ner, tea, or sup­per? And what will you take next? Shall it be break­fast, lunch, din­ner, tea, or sup­per?’

The re­spect­ful ten­der­ness with which, on one knee be­fore her, he helped her to re­move her hat, and dis­en­tan­gle her pret­ty hair from it, was quite a chival­rous sight. Yet who, know­ing him only on the sur­face, would have ex­pect­ed chival­ry—and of the true sort, too; not the spu­ri­ous—from Mr. Grew­gious?

‘Your rest too must be pro­vid­ed for,’ he went on; ‘and you shall have the pret­ti­est cham­ber in Fur­ni­val’s. Your toi­let must be pro­vid­ed for, and you shall have ev­ery­thing that an un­lim­it­ed head cham­ber­maid—by which ex­pres­sion I mean a head cham­ber­maid not lim­it­ed as to out­lay—can pro­cure. Is that a bag?’ he looked hard at it; sooth to say, it re­quired hard look­ing at to be seen at all in a dimly light­ed room: ‘and is it your prop­er­ty, my dear?’

‘Yes, sir. I brought it with me.’

‘It is not an ex­ten­sive bag,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, can­did­ly, ‘though ad­mirably cal­cu­lat­ed to con­tain a day’s pro­vi­sion for a ca­nary-bird. Per­haps you brought a ca­nary-bird?’

Rosa smiled and shook her head.

‘If you had, he should have been made wel­come,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘and I think he would have been pleased to be hung upon a nail out­side and pit him­self against our Sta­ple spar­rows; whose ex­e­cu­tion must be ad­mit­ted to be not quite equal to their in­ten­tion. Which is the case with so many of us! You didn’t say what meal, my dear. Have a nice jum­ble of all meals.’

Rosa thanked him, but said she could only take a cup of tea. Mr. Grew­gious, after sev­er­al times run­ning out, and in again, to men­tion such sup­ple­men­tary items as mar­malade, eggs, wa­ter­cress­es, salt­ed fish, and friz­zled ham, ran across to Fur­ni­val’s with­out his hat, to give his var­i­ous di­rec­tions. And soon af­ter­wards they were re­alised in prac­tice, and the board was spread.

‘Lord bless my soul,’ cried Mr. Grew­gious, putting the lamp upon it, and tak­ing his seat op­po­site Rosa; ‘what a new sen­sa­tion for a poor old An­gu­lar bach­e­lor, to be sure!’

Rosa’s ex­pres­sive lit­tle eye­brows asked him what he meant?

‘The sen­sa­tion of hav­ing a sweet young pres­ence in the place, that white­wash­es it, paints it, pa­pers it, dec­o­rates it with gild­ing, and makes it Glo­ri­ous!’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Ah me! Ah me!’

As there was some­thing mourn­ful in his sigh, Rosa, in touch­ing him with her tea-cup, ven­tured to touch him with her small hand too.

‘Thank you, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Ahem! Let’s talk!’

‘Do you al­ways live here, sir?’ asked Rosa.

‘Yes, my dear.’

‘And al­ways alone?’

‘Al­ways alone; ex­cept that I have daily com­pa­ny in a gen­tle­man by the name of Baz­zard, my clerk.’

‘He doesn’t live here?’

‘No, he goes his way, after of­fice hours. In fact, he is off duty here, al­to­geth­er, just at pre­sent; and a firm down-stairs, with which I have busi­ness re­la­tions, lend me a sub­sti­tute. But it would be ex­treme­ly dif­fi­cult to re­place Mr. Baz­zard.’

‘He must be very fond of you,’ said Rosa.

‘He bears up against it with com­mend­able for­ti­tude if he is,’ re­turned Mr. Grew­gious, after con­sid­er­ing the mat­ter. ‘But I doubt if he is. Not par­tic­u­lar­ly so. You see, he is dis­con­tent­ed, poor fel­low.’

‘Why isn’t he con­tent­ed?’ was the nat­u­ral in­quiry.

‘Mis­placed,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, with great mys­tery.

Rosa’s eye­brows re­sumed their in­quis­i­tive and per­plexed ex­pres­sion.

‘So mis­placed,’ Mr. Grew­gious went on, ‘that I feel con­stant­ly apolo­get­ic to­wards him. And he feels (though he doesn’t men­tion it) that I have rea­son to be.’

Mr. Grew­gious had by this time grown so very mys­te­ri­ous, that Rosa did not know how to go on. While she was think­ing about it Mr. Grew­gious sud­den­ly jerked out of him­self for the sec­ond time:

‘Let’s talk. We were speak­ing of Mr. Baz­zard. It’s a se­cret, and more­over it is Mr. Baz­zard’s se­cret; but the sweet pres­ence at my table makes me so un­usu­al­ly ex­pan­sive, that I feel I must im­part it in in­vi­o­lable con­fi­dence. What do you think Mr. Baz­zard has done?’

‘O dear!’ cried Rosa, draw­ing her chair a lit­tle near­er, and her mind re­vert­ing to Jasper, ‘noth­ing dread­ful, I hope?’

‘He has writ­ten a play,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, in a solemn whis­per. ‘A tragedy.’

Rosa seemed much re­lieved.

‘And no­body,’ pur­sued Mr. Grew­gious in the same tone, ‘will hear, on any ac­count what­ev­er, of bring­ing it out.’

Rosa looked re­flec­tive, and nod­ded her head slow­ly; as who should say, ‘Such things are, and why are they!’

‘Now, you know,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘I couldn’t write a play.’

‘Not a bad one, sir?’ said Rosa, in­no­cent­ly, with her eye­brows again in ac­tion.

‘No. If I was under sen­tence of de­cap­i­ta­tion, and was about to be in­stant­ly de­cap­i­tat­ed, and an ex­press ar­rived with a par­don for the con­demned con­vict Grew­gious if he wrote a play, I should be under the ne­ces­si­ty of re­sum­ing the block, and beg­ging the ex­e­cu­tion­er to pro­ceed to ex­trem­i­ties,—mean­ing,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, pass­ing his hand under his chin, ‘the sin­gu­lar num­ber, and this ex­trem­i­ty.’

Rosa ap­peared to con­sid­er what she would do if the awk­ward sup­posi­ti­tious case were hers.

‘Con­se­quent­ly,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘Mr. Baz­zard would have a sense of my in­fe­ri­or­i­ty to him­self under any cir­cum­stances; but when I am his mas­ter, you know, the case is great­ly ag­gra­vat­ed.’

Mr. Grew­gious shook his head se­ri­ous­ly, as if he felt the of­fence to be a lit­tle too much, though of his own com­mit­ting.

‘How came you to be his mas­ter, sir?’ asked Rosa.

‘A ques­tion that nat­u­ral­ly fol­lows,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Let’s talk. Mr. Baz­zard’s fa­ther, being a Nor­folk farmer, would have fu­ri­ous­ly laid about him with a flail, a pitch-fork, and every agri­cul­tur­al im­ple­ment avail­able for as­sault­ing pur­pos­es, on the slight­est hint of his son’s hav­ing writ­ten a play. So the son, bring­ing to me the fa­ther’s rent (which I re­ceive), im­part­ed his se­cret, and point­ed out that he was de­ter­mined to pur­sue his ge­nius, and that it would put him in peril of star­va­tion, and that he was not formed for it.’

‘For pur­su­ing his ge­nius, sir?’

‘No, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘for star­va­tion. It was im­pos­si­ble to deny the po­si­tion, that Mr. Baz­zard was not formed to be starved, and Mr. Baz­zard then point­ed out that it was de­sir­able that I should stand be­tween him and a fate so per­fect­ly un­suit­ed to his for­ma­tion. In that way Mr. Baz­zard be­came my clerk, and he feels it very much.’

‘I am glad he is grate­ful,’ said Rosa.

‘I didn’t quite mean that, my dear. I mean, that he feels the degra­da­tion. There are some other ge­nius­es that Mr. Baz­zard has be­come ac­quaint­ed with, who have also writ­ten tragedies, which like­wise no­body will on any ac­count what­ev­er hear of bring­ing out, and these choice spir­its ded­i­cate their plays to one an­oth­er in a high­ly pan­e­gyri­cal man­ner. Mr. Baz­zard has been the sub­ject of one of these ded­i­ca­tions. Now, you know, I never had a play ded­i­cat­ed to me!’

Rosa looked at him as if she would have liked him to be the re­cip­i­ent of a thou­sand ded­i­ca­tions.

‘Which again, nat­u­ral­ly, rubs against the grain of Mr. Baz­zard,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘He is very short with me some­times, and then I feel that he is med­i­tat­ing, “This block­head is my mas­ter! A fel­low who couldn’t write a tragedy on pain of death, and who will never have one ded­i­cat­ed to him with the most com­pli­men­ta­ry con­grat­u­la­tions on the high po­si­tion he has taken in the eyes of pos­ter­i­ty!” Very try­ing, very try­ing. How­ev­er, in giv­ing him di­rec­tions, I re­flect be­fore­hand: “Per­haps he may not like this,” or “He might take it ill if I asked that;” and so we get on very well. In­deed, bet­ter than I could have ex­pect­ed.’

‘Is the tragedy named, sir?’ asked Rosa.

‘Strict­ly be­tween our­selves,’ an­swered Mr. Grew­gious, ‘it has a dread­ful­ly ap­pro­pri­ate name. It is called The Thorn of Anx­i­ety. But Mr. Baz­zard hopes—and I hope—that it will come out at last.’

It was not hard to di­vine that Mr. Grew­gious had re­lat­ed the Baz­zard his­to­ry thus fully, at least quite as much for the recre­ation of his ward’s mind from the sub­ject that had driv­en her there, as for the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of his own ten­den­cy to be so­cial and com­mu­nica­tive.

‘And now, my dear,’ he said at this point, ‘if you are not too tired to tell me more of what passed to-day—but only if you feel quite able—I should be glad to hear it. I may di­gest it the bet­ter, if I sleep on it to-night.’

Rosa, com­posed now, gave him a faith­ful ac­count of the in­ter­view. Mr. Grew­gious often smoothed his head while it was in progress, and begged to be told a sec­ond time those parts which bore on He­le­na and Neville. When Rosa had fin­ished, he sat grave, silent, and med­i­ta­tive for a while.

‘Clear­ly nar­rat­ed,’ was his only re­mark at last, ‘and, I hope, clear­ly put away here,’ smooth­ing his head again. ‘See, my dear,’ tak­ing her to the open win­dow, ‘where they live! The dark win­dows over yon­der.’

‘I may go to He­le­na to-mor­row?’ asked Rosa.

‘I should like to sleep on that ques­tion to-night,’ he an­swered doubt­ful­ly. ‘But let me take you to your own rest, for you must need it.’

With that Mr. Grew­gious helped her to get her hat on again, and hung upon his arm the very lit­tle bag that was of no earth­ly use, and led her by the hand (with a cer­tain state­ly awk­ward­ness, as if he were going to walk a min­uet) across Hol­born, and into Fur­ni­val’s Inn. At the hotel door, he con­fid­ed her to the Un­lim­it­ed head cham­ber­maid, and said that while she went up to see her room, he would re­main below, in case she should wish it ex­changed for an­oth­er, or should find that there was any­thing she want­ed.

Rosa’s room was airy, clean, com­fort­able, al­most gay. The Un­lim­it­ed had laid in ev­ery­thing omit­ted from the very lit­tle bag (that is to say, ev­ery­thing she could pos­si­bly need), and Rosa tripped down the great many stairs again, to thank her guardian for his thought­ful and af­fec­tion­ate care of her.

‘Not at all, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, in­finite­ly grat­i­fied; ‘it is I who thank you for your charm­ing con­fi­dence and for your charm­ing com­pa­ny. Your break­fast will be pro­vid­ed for you in a neat, com­pact, and grace­ful lit­tle sit­ting-room (ap­pro­pri­ate to your fig­ure), and I will come to you at ten o’clock in the morn­ing. I hope you don’t feel very strange in­deed, in this strange place.’

‘O no, I feel so safe!’

‘Yes, you may be sure that the stairs are fire-proof,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘and that any out­break of the de­vour­ing el­e­ment would be per­ceived and sup­pressed by the watch­men.’

‘I did not mean that,’ Rosa replied. ‘I mean, I feel so safe from him.’

‘There is a stout gate of iron bars to keep him out,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, smil­ing; ‘and Fur­ni­val’s is fire-proof, and spe­cial­ly watched and light­ed, and I live over the way!’ In the stout­ness of his knight-er­rantry, he seemed to think the last-named pro­tec­tion all suf­fi­cient. In the same spir­it he said to the gate-porter as he went out, ‘If some one stay­ing in the hotel should wish to send across the road to me in the night, a crown will be ready for the mes­sen­ger.’ In the same spir­it, he walked up and down out­side the iron gate for the best part of an hour, with some so­lic­i­tude; oc­ca­sion­al­ly look­ing in be­tween the bars, as if he had laid a dove in a high roost in a cage of lions, and had it on his mind that she might tum­ble out.


CHAP­TER XXI
A RECOG­NI­TION

Noth­ing oc­curred in the night to flut­ter the tired dove; and the dove arose re­freshed. With Mr. Grew­gious, when the clock struck ten in the morn­ing, came Mr. Crisparkle, who had come at one plunge out of the river at Clois­ter­ham.

‘Miss Twin­kle­ton was so un­easy, Miss Rosa,’ he ex­plained to her, ‘and came round to Ma and me with your note, in such a state of won­der, that, to quiet her, I vol­un­teered on this ser­vice by the very first train to be caught in the morn­ing. I wished at the time that you had come to me; but now I think it best that you did as you did, and came to your guardian.’

‘I did think of you,’ Rosa told him; ‘but Minor Canon Cor­ner was so near him—’

‘I un­der­stand. It was quite nat­u­ral.’

‘I have told Mr. Crisparkle,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘all that you told me last night, my dear. Of course I should have writ­ten it to him im­me­di­ate­ly; but his com­ing was most op­por­tune. And it was par­tic­u­lar­ly kind of him to come, for he had but just gone.’

‘Have you set­tled,’ asked Rosa, ap­peal­ing to them both, ‘what is to be done for He­le­na and her broth­er?’

‘Why re­al­ly,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘I am in great per­plex­i­ty. If even Mr. Grew­gious, whose head is much longer than mine, and who is a whole night’s cog­i­ta­tion in ad­vance of me, is un­de­cid­ed, what must I be!’

The Un­lim­it­ed here put her head in at the door—after hav­ing rapped, and been au­tho­rised to pre­sent her­self—an­nounc­ing that a gen­tle­man wished for a word with an­oth­er gen­tle­man named Crisparkle, if any such gen­tle­man were there. If no such gen­tle­man were there, he begged par­don for being mis­tak­en.

‘Such a gen­tle­man is here,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘but is en­gaged just now.’

‘Is it a dark gen­tle­man?’ in­ter­posed Rosa, re­treat­ing on her guardian.

‘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.’

‘Per­haps,’ hint­ed Mr. Grew­gious, with ha­bit­u­al cau­tion, ‘it might be well to see him, rev­erend sir, if you don’t ob­ject. When one is in a dif­fi­cul­ty or at a loss, one never knows in what di­rec­tion a way out may chance to open. It is a busi­ness prin­ci­ple of mine, in such a case, not to close up any di­rec­tion, but to keep an eye on every di­rec­tion that may pre­sent it­self. I could re­late an anec­dote in point, but that it would be pre­ma­ture.’

‘If Miss Rosa will allow me, then? Let the gen­tle­man come in,’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

The gen­tle­man came in; apol­o­gised, with a frank but mod­est grace, for not find­ing Mr. Crisparkle alone; turned to Mr. Crisparkle, and smil­ing­ly asked the un­ex­pect­ed ques­tion: ‘Who am I?’

‘You are the gen­tle­man I saw smok­ing under the trees in Sta­ple Inn, a few min­utes ago.’

‘True. There I saw you. Who else am I?’

Mr. Crisparkle con­cen­trat­ed his at­ten­tion on a hand­some face, much sun­burnt; and the ghost of some de­part­ed boy seemed to rise, grad­u­al­ly and dimly, in the room.

The gen­tle­man saw a strug­gling rec­ol­lec­tion light­en up the Minor Canon’s fea­tures, and smil­ing again, said: ‘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 then went the won­der­ful length—for En­glish­men—of lay­ing their hands each on the other’s shoul­ders, and look­ing joy­ful­ly each into the other’s face.

‘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.

And then they fell to shak­ing hands most hearti­ly again.

‘Imag­ine,’ ex­claimed Mr. Crisparkle, with glis­ten­ing eyes: ‘Miss Rosa Bud and Mr. Grew­gious, imag­ine Mr. Tar­tar, when he was the small­est of ju­niors, div­ing for me, catch­ing me, a big heavy se­nior, by the hair of the head, and strik­ing out for the shore with me like a wa­ter-gi­ant!’

‘Imag­ine my not let­ting him sink, as I was his fag!’ said Mr. Tar­tar. ‘But the truth being that he was my best pro­tec­tor and friend, and did me more good than all the mas­ters put to­geth­er, an ir­ra­tional im­pulse seized me to pick him up, or go down with him.’

‘Hem! Per­mit me, sir, to have the hon­our,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ad­vanc­ing with ex­tend­ed hand, ‘for an hon­our I truly es­teem it. I am proud to make your ac­quain­tance. I hope you didn’t take cold. I hope you were not in­con­ve­nienced by swal­low­ing too much water. How have you been since?’

It was by no means ap­par­ent that Mr. Grew­gious knew what he said, though it was very ap­par­ent that he meant to say some­thing high­ly friend­ly and ap­pre­cia­tive.

If Heav­en, Rosa thought, had but sent such courage and skill to her poor moth­er’s aid! And he to have been so slight and young then!

‘I don’t wish to be com­pli­ment­ed upon it, I thank you; but I think I have an idea,’ Mr. Grew­gious an­nounced, after tak­ing a jog-trot or two across the room, so un­ex­pect­ed and un­ac­count­able that they all stared at him, doubt­ful whether he was chok­ing or had the cramp—‘I think I have an idea. I be­lieve I have had the plea­sure of see­ing Mr. Tar­tar’s name as ten­ant of the top set in the house next the top set in the cor­ner?’

‘Yes, sir,’ re­turned Mr. Tar­tar. ‘You are right so far.’

‘I am right so far,’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘Tick that off;’ which he did, with his right thumb on his left. ‘Might you hap­pen to know the name of your neigh­bour in the top set on the other side of the par­ty-wall?’ com­ing very close to Mr. Tar­tar, to lose noth­ing of his face, in his short­ness of sight.

‘Land­less.’

‘Tick that off,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, tak­ing an­oth­er trot, and then com­ing back. ‘No per­son­al knowl­edge, I sup­pose, sir?’

‘Slight, but some.’

‘Tick that off,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, tak­ing an­oth­er trot, and again com­ing back. ‘Na­ture of knowl­edge, Mr. Tar­tar?’

‘I thought he seemed to be a young fel­low in a poor way, and I asked his leave—only with­in a day or so—to share my flow­ers up there with him; that is to say, to ex­tend my flow­er-gar­den to his win­dows.’

‘Would you have the kind­ness to take seats?’ said Mr. Grew­gious. ‘I have an idea!’

They com­plied; Mr. Tar­tar none the less read­i­ly, for being all abroad; and Mr. Grew­gious, seat­ed in the cen­tre, with his hands upon his knees, thus stat­ed his idea, with his usual man­ner of hav­ing got the state­ment by heart.

‘I can­not as yet make up my mind whether it is pru­dent to hold open com­mu­ni­ca­tion under pre­sent cir­cum­stances, and on the part of the fair mem­ber of the pre­sent com­pa­ny, with Mr. Neville or Miss He­le­na. I have rea­son to know that a local friend of ours (on whom I beg to be­stow a pass­ing but a hearty male­dic­tion, with the kind per­mis­sion of my rev­erend friend) sneaks to and fro, and dodges up and down. When not doing so him­self, he may have some in­for­mant skulk­ing about, in the per­son of a watch­man, porter, or such-like hang­er-on of Sta­ple. On the other hand, Miss Rosa very nat­u­ral­ly wish­es to see her friend Miss He­le­na, and it would seem im­por­tant that at least Miss He­le­na (if not her broth­er too, through her) should pri­vate­ly know from Miss Rosa’s lips what has oc­curred, and what has been threat­ened. Am I agreed with gen­er­al­ly in the views I take?’

‘I en­tire­ly co­in­cide with them,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, who had been very at­ten­tive.

‘As I have no doubt I should,’ added Mr. Tar­tar, smil­ing, ‘if I un­der­stood them.’

‘Fair and soft­ly, sir,’ said Mr. Grew­gious; ‘we shall fully con­fide in you di­rect­ly, if you will favour us with your per­mis­sion. Now, if our local friend should have any in­for­mant on the spot, it is tol­er­a­bly clear that such in­for­mant can only be set to watch the cham­bers in the oc­cu­pa­tion of Mr. Neville. He re­port­ing, to our local friend, who comes and goes there, our local friend would sup­ply for him­self, from his own pre­vi­ous knowl­edge, the iden­ti­ty of the par­ties. No­body can be set to watch all Sta­ple, or to con­cern him­self with com­ers and goers to other sets of cham­bers: un­less, in­deed, mine.’

‘I begin to un­der­stand to what you tend,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘and high­ly ap­prove of your cau­tion.’

‘I needn’t re­peat that I know noth­ing yet of the why and where­fore,’ said Mr. Tar­tar; ‘but I also un­der­stand to what you tend, so let me say at once that my cham­bers are freely at your dis­pos­al.’

‘There!’ cried Mr. Grew­gious, smooth­ing his head tri­umphant­ly, ‘now we have all got the idea. You have it, my dear?’

‘I think I have,’ said Rosa, blush­ing a lit­tle as Mr. Tar­tar looked quick­ly to­wards her.

‘You see, you go over to Sta­ple with Mr. Crisparkle and Mr. Tar­tar,’ said Mr. Grew­gious; ‘I going in and out, and out and in alone, in my usual way; you go up with those gen­tle­men to Mr. Tar­tar’s rooms; you look into Mr. Tar­tar’s flow­er-gar­den; you wait for Miss He­le­na’s ap­pear­ance there, or you sig­ni­fy to Miss He­le­na that you are close by; and you com­mu­ni­cate with her freely, and no spy can be the wiser.’

‘I am very much afraid I shall be—’

‘Be what, my dear?’ asked Mr. Grew­gious, as she hes­i­tat­ed. ‘Not fright­ened?’

‘No, not that,’ said Rosa, shyly; ‘in Mr. Tar­tar’s way. We seem to be ap­pro­pri­at­ing Mr. Tar­tar’s res­i­dence so very cool­ly.’

‘I protest to you,’ re­turned that gen­tle­man, ‘that I shall think the bet­ter of it for ev­er­more, if your voice sounds in it only once.’

Rosa, not quite know­ing what to say about that, cast down her eyes, and turn­ing to Mr. Grew­gious, du­ti­ful­ly asked if she should put her hat on? Mr. Grew­gious being of opin­ion that she could not do bet­ter, she with­drew for the pur­pose. Mr. Crisparkle took the op­por­tu­ni­ty of giv­ing Mr. Tar­tar a sum­ma­ry of the dis­tress­es of Neville and his sis­ter; the op­por­tu­ni­ty was quite long enough, as the hat hap­pened to re­quire a lit­tle extra fit­ting on.

Mr. Tar­tar gave his arm to Rosa, and Mr. Crisparkle walked, de­tached, in front.

‘Poor, poor Eddy!’ thought Rosa, as they went along.

Mr. Tar­tar waved his right hand as he bent his head down over Rosa, talk­ing in an an­i­mat­ed way.

‘It was not so pow­er­ful or so sun-browned when it saved Mr. Crisparkle,’ thought Rosa, glanc­ing at it; ‘but it must have been very steady and de­ter­mined even then.’

Mr. Tar­tar told her he had been a sailor, rov­ing ev­ery­where for years and years.

‘When are you going to sea again?’ asked Rosa.

‘Never!’

Rosa won­dered what the girls would say if they could see her cross­ing the wide street on the sailor’s arm. And she fan­cied that the passers-by must think her very lit­tle and very help­less, con­trast­ed with the strong fig­ure that could have caught her up and car­ried her out of any dan­ger, miles and miles with­out rest­ing.

She was think­ing fur­ther, that 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: when, hap­pen­ing to raise her own eyes, she found that he seemed to be think­ing some­thing about them.

This a lit­tle con­fused Rose­bud, and may ac­count for her never af­ter­wards quite know­ing how she as­cend­ed (with his help) to his gar­den in the air, and seemed to get into a mar­vel­lous coun­try that came into sud­den bloom like the coun­try on the sum­mit of the magic bean-stalk. May it flour­ish for ever!


CHAP­TER XXII
A GRIT­TY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON

Mr. Tar­tar’s cham­bers were the neat­est, the clean­est, and the best-or­dered cham­bers ever seen under the sun, moon, and stars. The floors were scrubbed to that ex­tent, that you might have sup­posed the Lon­don blacks eman­ci­pat­ed for ever, and gone out of the land for good. Every inch of brass-work in Mr. Tar­tar’s pos­ses­sion was pol­ished and bur­nished, till it shone like a brazen mir­ror. No speck, nor spot, nor spat­ter soiled the pu­ri­ty of any of Mr. Tar­tar’s house­hold gods, large, small, or mid­dle-sized. His sit­ting-room was like the ad­mi­ral’s cabin, his bath-room was like a dairy, his sleep­ing-cham­ber, fit­ted all about with lock­ers and draw­ers, was like a seeds­man’s shop; and his nice­ly-bal­anced cot just stirred in the midst, as if it breathed. Ev­ery­thing be­long­ing to Mr. Tar­tar had quar­ters of its own as­signed to it: his maps and charts had their quar­ters; his books had theirs; his brush­es had theirs; his boots had theirs; his clothes had theirs; his case-bot­tles had theirs; his tele­scopes and other in­stru­ments had theirs. Ev­ery­thing was read­i­ly ac­ces­si­ble. Shelf, brack­et, lock­er, hook, and draw­er were equal­ly with­in reach, and were equal­ly con­trived with a view to avoid­ing waste of room, and pro­vid­ing some snug inch­es of stowage for some­thing that would have ex­act­ly fit­ted nowhere else. His gleam­ing lit­tle ser­vice of plate was so ar­ranged upon his side­board as that a slack salt-spoon would have in­stant­ly be­trayed it­self; his toi­let im­ple­ments were so ar­ranged upon his dress­ing-table as that a tooth­pick of sloven­ly de­port­ment could have been re­port­ed at a glance. So with the cu­riosi­ties he had brought home from var­i­ous voy­ages. Stuffed, dried, re­pol­ished, or oth­er­wise pre­served, ac­cord­ing to their kind; birds, fish­es, rep­tiles, arms, ar­ti­cles of dress, shells, sea­weeds, grass­es, or memo­ri­als of coral reef; each was dis­played in its es­pe­cial place, and each could have been dis­played in no bet­ter place. Paint and var­nish seemed to be kept some­where out of sight, in con­stant readi­ness to oblit­er­ate stray fin­ger-marks wher­ev­er any might be­come per­cep­ti­ble in Mr. Tar­tar’s cham­bers. No man-of-war was ever kept more spick and span from care­less touch. On this bright sum­mer day, a neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tar­tar’s flow­er-gar­den as only a sailor can rig it, and there was a sea-go­ing air upon the whole ef­fect, so de­light­ful­ly com­plete, that the flow­er-gar­den might have ap­per­tained to stern-win­dows afloat, and the whole con­cern might have bowled away gal­lant­ly with all on board, if Mr. Tar­tar had only clapped to his lips the speak­ing-trum­pet that was slung in a cor­ner, and given hoarse or­ders to heave the an­chor up, look alive there, men, and get all sail upon her!

Mr. Tar­tar doing the hon­ours of this gal­lant craft was of a piece with the rest. When a man rides an ami­able hobby that shies at noth­ing and kicks no­body, it is only agree­able to find him rid­ing it with a hu­mor­ous sense of the droll side of the crea­ture. When the man is a cor­dial and an earnest man by na­ture, and with­al is per­fect­ly fresh and gen­uine, it may be doubt­ed whether he is ever seen to greater ad­van­tage than at such a time. So Rosa would have nat­u­ral­ly thought (even if she hadn’t been con­duct­ed over the ship with all the homage due to the First Lady of the Ad­mi­ral­ty, or First Fairy of the Sea), that it was charm­ing to see and hear Mr. Tar­tar half laugh­ing at, and half re­joic­ing in, his var­i­ous con­trivances. So Rosa would have nat­u­ral­ly thought, any­how, that the sun­burnt sailor showed to great ad­van­tage when, the in­spec­tion fin­ished, he del­i­cate­ly with­drew out of his ad­mi­ral’s cabin, be­seech­ing her to con­sid­er her­self its Queen, and wav­ing her free of his flow­er-gar­den with the hand that had had Mr. Crisparkle’s life in it.

‘He­le­na! He­le­na Land­less! Are you there?’

‘Who speaks to me? Not Rosa?’ Then a sec­ond hand­some face ap­pear­ing.

‘Yes, my dar­ling!’

‘Why, how did you come here, dear­est?’

‘I—I don’t quite know,’ said Rosa with a blush; ‘un­less I am dream­ing!’

Why with a blush? For their two faces were alone with the other flow­ers. Are blush­es among the fruits of the coun­try of the magic bean-stalk?

‘I am not dream­ing,’ said He­le­na, smil­ing. ‘I should take more for grant­ed if I were. How do we come to­geth­er—or so near to­geth­er—so very un­ex­pect­ed­ly?’

Un­ex­pect­ed­ly in­deed, among the dingy gables and chim­ney-pots of P. J. T.’s con­nec­tion, and the flow­ers that had sprung from the salt sea. But Rosa, wak­ing, told in a hurry how they came to be to­geth­er, and all the why and where­fore of that mat­ter.

‘And Mr. Crisparkle is here,’ said Rosa, in rapid con­clu­sion; ‘and, could you be­lieve it? long ago he saved his life!’

‘I could be­lieve any such thing of Mr. Crisparkle,’ re­turned He­le­na, with a mantling face.

(More blush­es in the bean-stalk coun­try!)

‘Yes, but it wasn’t Crisparkle,’ said Rosa, quick­ly putting in the cor­rec­tion.

‘I don’t un­der­stand, love.’

‘It was very nice of Mr. Crisparkle to be saved,’ said Rosa, ‘and he couldn’t have shown his high opin­ion of Mr. Tar­tar more ex­pres­sive­ly. But it was Mr. Tar­tar who saved him.’

He­le­na’s dark eyes looked very earnest­ly at the bright face among the leaves, and she asked, in a slow­er and more thought­ful tone:

‘Is Mr. Tar­tar with you now, dear?’

‘No; be­cause he has given up his rooms to me—to us, I mean. It is such a beau­ti­ful place!’

‘Is it?’

‘It is like the in­side of the most exquisite ship that ever sailed. It is like—it is like—’

‘Like a dream?’ sug­gest­ed He­le­na.

Rosa an­swered with a lit­tle nod, and smelled the flow­ers.

He­le­na re­sumed, after a short pause of si­lence, dur­ing which she seemed (or it was Rosa’s fancy) to com­pas­sion­ate some­body: ‘My poor Neville is read­ing in his own room, the sun being so very bright on this side just now. I think he had bet­ter not know that you are so near.’

‘O, I think so too!’ cried Rosa very read­i­ly.

‘I sup­pose,’ pur­sued He­le­na, doubt­ful­ly, ‘that he must know by-and-by all you have told me; but I am not sure. Ask Mr. Crisparkle’s ad­vice, my dar­ling. Ask him whether I may tell Neville as much or as lit­tle of what you have told me as I think best.’

Rosa sub­sid­ed into her state-cab­in, and pro­pound­ed the ques­tion. The Minor Canon was for the free ex­er­cise of He­le­na’s judg­ment.

‘I thank him very much,’ said He­le­na, when Rosa emerged again with her re­port. ‘Ask him whether it would be best to wait until any more ma­lign­ing and pur­su­ing of Neville on the part of this wretch shall dis­close it­self, or to try to an­tic­i­pate it: I mean, so far as to find out whether any such goes on dark­ly about us?’

The Minor Canon found this point so dif­fi­cult to give a con­fi­dent opin­ion on, that, after two or three at­tempts and fail­ures, he sug­gest­ed a ref­er­ence to Mr. Grew­gious. He­le­na ac­qui­esc­ing, he be­took him­self (with a most un­suc­cess­ful as­sump­tion of loung­ing in­dif­fer­ence) across the quad­ran­gle to P. J. T.’s, and stat­ed it. Mr. Grew­gious held de­cid­ed­ly to the gen­er­al prin­ci­ple, that if you could steal a march upon a brig­and or a wild beast, you had bet­ter do it; and he also held de­cid­ed­ly to the spe­cial case, that John Jasper was a brig­and and a wild beast in com­bi­na­tion.

Thus ad­vised, Mr. Crisparkle came back again and re­port­ed to Rosa, who in her turn re­port­ed to He­le­na. She now steadi­ly pur­su­ing her train of thought at her win­dow, con­sid­ered there­upon.

‘We may count on Mr. Tar­tar’s readi­ness to help us, Rosa?’ she in­quired.

O yes! Rosa shyly thought so. O yes, Rosa shyly be­lieved she could al­most an­swer for it. But should she ask Mr. Crisparkle? ‘I think your au­thor­i­ty on the point as good as his, my dear,’ said He­le­na, se­date­ly, ‘and you needn’t dis­ap­pear again for that.’ Odd of He­le­na!

‘You see, Neville,’ He­le­na pur­sued after more re­flec­tion, ‘knows no one else here: he has not so much as ex­changed a word with any one else here. If Mr. Tar­tar would call to see him open­ly and often; if he would spare a minute for the pur­pose, fre­quent­ly; if he would even do so, al­most daily; some­thing might come of it.’

‘Some­thing might come of it, dear?’ re­peat­ed Rosa, sur­vey­ing her friend’s beau­ty with a high­ly per­plexed face. ‘Some­thing might?’

‘If Neville’s move­ments are re­al­ly watched, and if the pur­pose re­al­ly is to iso­late him from all friends and ac­quain­tance and wear his daily life out grain by grain (which would seem to be the threat to you), does it not ap­pear like­ly,’ said He­le­na, ‘that his enemy would in some way com­mu­ni­cate with Mr. Tar­tar to warn him off from Neville? In which case, we might not only know the fact, but might know from Mr. Tar­tar what the terms of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion were.’

‘I see!’ cried Rosa. And im­me­di­ate­ly dart­ed into her state-cab­in again.

Present­ly her pret­ty face reap­peared, with a great­ly height­ened colour, and she said that she had told Mr. Crisparkle, and that Mr. Crisparkle had fetched in Mr. Tar­tar, and that Mr. Tar­tar—‘who is wait­ing now, in case you want him,’ added Rosa, with a half look back, and in not a lit­tle con­fu­sion be­tween the in­side of the state-cab­in and out—had de­clared his readi­ness to act as she had sug­gest­ed, and to enter on his task that very day.

‘I thank him from my heart,’ said He­le­na. ‘Pray tell him so.’

Again not a lit­tle con­fused be­tween the Flow­er-gar­den and the Cabin, Rosa dipped in with her mes­sage, and dipped out again with more as­sur­ances from Mr. Tar­tar, and stood wa­ver­ing in a di­vid­ed state be­tween He­le­na and him, which proved that con­fu­sion is not al­ways nec­es­sar­i­ly awk­ward, but may some­times pre­sent a very pleas­ant ap­pear­ance.

‘And now, dar­ling,’ said He­le­na, ‘we will be mind­ful of the cau­tion that has re­strict­ed us to this in­ter­view for the pre­sent, and will part. I hear Neville mov­ing too. Are you going back?’

‘To Miss Twin­kle­ton’s?’ asked Rosa.

‘Yes.’

‘O, I could never go there any more. I couldn’t in­deed, after that dread­ful in­ter­view!’ said Rosa.

‘Then where are you going, pret­ty one?’

‘Now I come to think of it, I don’t know,’ said Rosa. ‘I have set­tled noth­ing at all yet, but my guardian will take care of me. Don’t be un­easy, dear. I shall be sure to be some­where.’

(It did seem like­ly.)

‘And I shall hear of my Rose­bud from Mr. Tar­tar?’ in­quired He­le­na.

‘Yes, I sup­pose so; from—’ Rosa looked back again in a flut­ter, in­stead of sup­ply­ing the name. ‘But tell me one thing be­fore we part, dear­est He­le­na. Tell me—that you are sure, sure, sure, I couldn’t help it.’

‘Help it, love?’

‘Help mak­ing him ma­li­cious and re­venge­ful. I couldn’t hold any terms with him, could I?’

‘You know how I love you, dar­ling,’ an­swered He­le­na, with in­dig­na­tion; ‘but I would soon­er see you dead at his wicked feet.’

‘That’s a great com­fort to me! And you will tell your poor broth­er so, won’t you? And you will give him my re­mem­brance and my sym­pa­thy? And you will ask him not to hate me?’

With a mourn­ful shake of the head, as if that would be quite a su­per­flu­ous en­treaty, He­le­na lov­ing­ly kissed her two hands to her friend, and her friend’s two hands were kissed to her; and then she saw a third hand (a brown one) ap­pear among the flow­ers and leaves, and help her friend out of sight.

The re­fec­tion that Mr. Tar­tar pro­duced in the Ad­mi­ral’s Cabin by mere­ly touch­ing the spring knob of a lock­er and the han­dle of a draw­er, was a daz­zling en­chant­ed repast. Won­der­ful mac­a­roons, glit­ter­ing liqueurs, mag­i­cal­ly-pre­served trop­i­cal spices, and jel­lies of ce­les­tial trop­i­cal fruits, dis­played them­selves pro­fuse­ly at an in­stant’s no­tice. But Mr. Tar­tar could not make time stand still; and time, with his hard-heart­ed fleet­ness, strode on so fast, that Rosa was obliged to come down from the bean-stalk coun­try to earth and her guardian’s cham­bers.

‘And now, my dear,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘what is to be done next? To put the same thought in an­oth­er form; what is to be done with you?’

Rosa could only look apolo­get­i­cal­ly sen­si­ble of being very much in her own way and in ev­ery­body else’s. Some pass­ing idea of liv­ing, fire­proof, up a good many stairs in Fur­ni­val’s Inn for the rest of her life, was the only thing in the na­ture of a plan that oc­curred to her.

‘It has come into my thoughts,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘that as the re­spect­ed lady, Miss Twin­kle­ton, oc­ca­sion­al­ly re­pairs to Lon­don in the re­cess, with the view of ex­tend­ing her con­nec­tion, and being avail­able for in­ter­views with metropoli­tan par­ents, if any—whether, until we have time in which to turn our­selves round, we might in­vite Miss Twin­kle­ton to come and stay with you for a month?’

‘Stay where, sir?’

‘Whether,’ ex­plained Mr. Grew­gious, ‘we might take a fur­nished lodg­ing in town for a month, and in­vite Miss Twin­kle­ton to as­sume the charge of you in it for that pe­ri­od?’

‘And af­ter­wards?’ hint­ed Rosa.

‘And af­ter­wards,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘we should be no worse off than we are now.’

‘I think that might smooth the way,’ as­sent­ed Rosa.

‘Then let us,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ris­ing, ‘go and look for a fur­nished lodg­ing. Noth­ing could be more ac­cept­able to me than the sweet pres­ence of last evening, for all the re­main­ing evenings of my ex­is­tence; but these are not fit sur­round­ings for a young lady. Let us set out in quest of ad­ven­tures, and look for a fur­nished lodg­ing. In the mean­time, Mr. Crisparkle here, about to re­turn home im­me­di­ate­ly, will no doubt kind­ly see Miss Twin­kle­ton, and in­vite that lady to co-op­er­ate in our plan.’

Mr. Crisparkle, will­ing­ly ac­cept­ing the com­mis­sion, took his de­par­ture; Mr. Grew­gious and his ward set forth on their ex­pe­di­tion.

As Mr. Grew­gious’s idea of look­ing at a fur­nished lodg­ing was to get on the op­po­site side of the street to a house with a suit­able bill in the win­dow, and stare at it; and then work his way tor­tu­ous­ly to the back of the house, and stare at that; and then not go in, but make sim­i­lar tri­als of an­oth­er house, with the same re­sult; their progress was but slow. At length he bethought him­self of a wid­owed cousin, divers times re­moved, of Mr. Baz­zard’s, who had once so­licit­ed his in­flu­ence in the lodger world, and who lived in Southamp­ton Street, Blooms­bury Square. This lady’s name, stat­ed in un­com­pro­mis­ing cap­i­tals of con­sid­er­able size on a brass door-plate, and yet not lu­cid­ly as to sex or con­di­tion, was Bil­lickin.

Per­son­al faint­ness, and an over­pow­er­ing per­son­al can­dour, were the dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures of Mrs. Bil­lickin’s or­gan­i­sa­tion. She came lan­guish­ing out of her own ex­clu­sive back par­lour, with the air of hav­ing been ex­press­ly brought-to for the pur­pose, from an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of sev­er­al swoons.

‘I hope I see you well, sir,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, recog­nis­ing her vis­i­tor with a bend.

‘Thank you, quite well. And you, ma’am?’ re­turned Mr. Grew­gious.

‘I am as well,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, be­com­ing as­pi­ra­tional with ex­cess of faint­ness, ‘as I hever ham.’

‘My ward and an el­der­ly lady,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, ‘wish to find a gen­teel lodg­ing for a month or so. Have you any apart­ments avail­able, ma’am?’

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ re­turned Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘I will not de­ceive you; far from it. I have apart­ments avail­able.’

This with the air of adding: ‘Con­vey me to the stake, if you will; but while I live, I will be can­did.’

‘And now, what apart­ments, ma’am?’ asked Mr. Grew­gious, cosi­ly. To tame a cer­tain sever­i­ty ap­par­ent on the part of Mrs. Bil­lickin.

‘There is this sit­ting-room—which, call it what you will, it is the front par­lour, Miss,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, im­press­ing Rosa into the con­ver­sa­tion: ‘the back par­lour being what I cling to and never part with; and there is two bed­rooms at the top of the ’ouse with gas laid on. I do not tell you that your bed­room floors is firm, for firm they are not. The gas-fit­ter him­self al­lowed, that to make a firm job, he must go right under your jistes, and it were not worth the out­lay as a year­ly ten­ant so to do. The pip­ing is car­ried above your jistes, and it is best that it should be made known to you.’

Mr. Grew­gious and Rosa ex­changed looks of some dis­may, though they had not the least idea what la­tent hor­rors this car­riage of the pip­ing might in­volve. Mrs. Bil­lickin put her hand to her heart, as hav­ing eased it of a load.

‘Well! The roof is all right, no doubt,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, pluck­ing up a lit­tle.

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ re­turned Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘if I was to tell you, sir, that to have no­think above you is to have a floor above you, I should put a de­cep­tion upon you which I will not do. No, sir. Your slates will rat­tle loose at that ele­wa­tion in windy weath­er, do your ut­most, best or worst! I defy you, sir, be you what you may, to keep your slates tight, try how you can.’ Here Mrs. Bil­lickin, hav­ing been warm with Mr. Grew­gious, cooled a lit­tle, not to abuse the moral power she held over him. ‘Con­se­quent,’ pro­ceed­ed Mrs. Bil­lickin, more mild­ly, but still firm­ly in her in­cor­rupt­ible can­dour: ‘con­se­quent it would be worse than of no use for me to trapse and trav­el up to the top of the ’ouse with you, and for you to say, “Mrs. Bil­lickin, what stain do I no­tice in the ceil­ing, for a stain I do con­sid­er it?” and for me to an­swer, “I do not un­der­stand you, sir.” No, sir, I will not be so un­der­hand. I do un­der­stand you be­fore you pint it out. It is the wet, sir. It do come in, and it do not come in. You may lay dry there half your life­time; but the time will come, and it is best that you should know it, when a drip­ping sop would be no name for you.’

Mr. Grew­gious looked much dis­graced by being pre­fig­ured in this pick­le.

‘Have you any other apart­ments, ma’am?’ he asked.

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ re­turned Mrs. Bil­lickin, with much solem­ni­ty, ‘I have. You ask me have I, and my open and my hon­est an­swer air, I have. The first and sec­ond floors is wa­cant, and sweet rooms.’

‘Come, come! There’s noth­ing against them,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, com­fort­ing him­self.

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ replied Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘par­don me, there is the stairs. Un­less your mind is pre­pared for the stairs, it will lead to in­evitable dis­ap­point­ment. You can­not, Miss,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, ad­dress­ing Rosa re­proach­ful­ly, ‘place a first floor, and far less a sec­ond, on the level foot­ing ‘of a par­lour. No, you can­not do it, Miss, it is be­yond your power, and where­fore try?’

Mrs. Bil­lickin put it very feel­ing­ly, as if Rosa had shown a head­strong de­ter­mi­na­tion to hold the un­ten­able po­si­tion.

‘Can we see these rooms, ma’am?’ in­quired her guardian.

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ re­turned Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘you can. I will not dis­guise it from you, sir; you can.’

Mrs. Bil­lickin then sent into her back par­lour for her shawl (it being a state fic­tion, dat­ing from im­memo­ri­al an­tiq­ui­ty, that she could never go any­where with­out being wrapped up), and hav­ing been en­rolled by her at­ten­dant, led the way. She made var­i­ous gen­teel paus­es on the stairs for breath, and clutched at her heart in the draw­ing-room as if it had very near­ly got loose, and she had caught it in the act of tak­ing wing.

‘And the sec­ond floor?’ said Mr. Grew­gious, on find­ing the first sat­is­fac­to­ry.

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ replied Mrs. Bil­lickin, turn­ing upon him with cer­e­mo­ny, as if the time had now come when a dis­tinct un­der­stand­ing on a dif­fi­cult point must be ar­rived at, and a solemn con­fi­dence es­tab­lished, ‘the sec­ond floor is over this.’

‘Can we see that too, ma’am?’

‘Yes, sir,’ re­turned Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘it is open as the day.’

That also prov­ing sat­is­fac­to­ry, Mr. Grew­gious re­tired into a win­dow with Rosa for a few words of con­sul­ta­tion, and then ask­ing for pen and ink, sketched out a line or two of agree­ment. In the mean­time Mrs. Bil­lickin took a seat, and de­liv­ered a kind of Index to, or Ab­stract of, the gen­er­al ques­tion.

‘Five-and-forty shillings per week by the month cer­tain at the time of year,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘is only rea­son­able to both par­ties. It is not Bond Street nor yet St. James’s Palace; but it is not pre­tend­ed that it is. Nei­ther is it at­tempt­ed to be de­nied—for why should it?—that the Arch­ing leads to a mews. Mews­es must exist. Re­spect­ing at­ten­dance; two is kep’, at lib­er­al wages. Words has arisen as to trades­men, but dirty shoes on fresh hearth-ston­ing was at­tributable, and no wish for a com­mis­sion on your or­ders. Coals is ei­ther by the fire, or per the scut­tle.’ She em­pha­sised the prepo­si­tions as mark­ing a sub­tle but im­mense dif­fer­ence. ‘Dogs is not viewed with favour. Be­sides lit­ter, they gets stole, and shar­ing sus­pi­cions is apt to creep in, and un­pleas­ant­ness takes place.’

By this time Mr. Grew­gious had his agree­ment-lines, and his earnest-mon­ey, ready. ‘I have signed it for the ladies, ma’am,’ he said, ‘and you’ll have the good­ness to sign it for your­self, Chris­tian and Sur­name, there, if you please.’

‘Mr. Grew­gious,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin in a new burst of can­dour, ‘no, sir! You must ex­cuse the Chris­tian name.’

Mr. Grew­gious stared at her.

‘The door-plate is used as a pro­tec­tion,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, ‘and acts as such, and go from it I will not.’

Mr. Grew­gious stared at Rosa.

‘No, Mr. Grew­gious, you must ex­cuse me. So long as this ’ouse is known in­def­i­nite as Bil­lickin’s, and so long as it is a doubt with the riff-raff where Bil­lickin may be hidin’, near the street-door or down the airy, and what his weight and size, so long I feel safe. But com­mit my­self to a soli­tary fe­male state­ment, no, Miss! Nor would you for a mo­ment wish,’ said Mrs. Bil­lickin, with a strong sense of in­jury, ‘to take that ad­van­tage of your sex, if you were not brought to it by in­con­sid­er­ate ex­am­ple.’

Rosa red­den­ing as if she had made some most dis­grace­ful at­tempt to over­reach the good lady, be­sought Mr. Grew­gious to rest con­tent with any sig­na­ture. And ac­cord­ing­ly, in a ba­ro­nial way, the sign-man­u­al Bil­lickin got ap­pend­ed to the doc­u­ment.

De­tails were then set­tled for tak­ing pos­ses­sion on the next day but one, when Miss Twin­kle­ton might be rea­son­ably ex­pect­ed; and Rosa went back to Fur­ni­val’s Inn on her guardian’s arm.

Be­hold Mr. Tar­tar walk­ing up and down Fur­ni­val’s Inn, check­ing him­self when he saw them com­ing, and ad­vanc­ing to­wards them!

‘It oc­curred to me,’ hint­ed Mr. Tar­tar, ‘that we might go up the river, the weath­er being so de­li­cious and the tide serv­ing. I have a boat of my own at the Tem­ple Stairs.’

‘I have not been up the river for this many a day,’ said Mr. Grew­gious, tempt­ed.

‘I was never up the river,’ added Rosa.

With­in half an hour they were set­ting this mat­ter right by going up the river. The tide was run­ning with them, the af­ter­noon was charm­ing. Mr. Tar­tar’s boat was per­fect. Mr. Tar­tar and Lob­ley (Mr. Tar­tar’s man) pulled a pair of oars. Mr. Tar­tar had a yacht, it seemed, lying some­where down by Green­hithe; and Mr. Tar­tar’s man had charge of this yacht, and was de­tached upon his pre­sent ser­vice. He was a jol­ly-favoured man, with tawny hair and whiskers, and a big red face. He was the dead image of the sun in old wood­cuts, his hair and whiskers an­swer­ing for rays all around him. Re­splen­dent in the bow of the boat, he was a shin­ing sight, with a man-of-war’s man’s shirt on—or off, ac­cord­ing to opin­ion—and his arms and breast tat­tooed all sorts of pat­terns. Lob­ley seemed to take it eas­i­ly, and so did Mr. Tar­tar; yet their oars bent as they pulled, and the boat bound­ed under them. Mr. Tar­tar talked as if he were doing noth­ing, to Rosa who was re­al­ly doing noth­ing, and to Mr. Grew­gious who was doing this much that he steered all wrong; but what did that mat­ter, when a turn of Mr. Tar­tar’s skil­ful wrist, or a mere grin of Mr. Lob­ley’s over the bow, put all to rights! The tide bore them on in the gayest and most sparkling man­ner, until they stopped to dine in some ev­er-last­ing­ly-green gar­den, need­ing no mat­ter-of-fact iden­ti­fi­ca­tion here; and then the tide oblig­ing­ly turned—being de­vot­ed to that party alone for that day; and as they float­ed idly among some osier-beds, Rosa tried what she could do in the row­ing way, and came off splen­did­ly, being much as­sist­ed; and Mr. Grew­gious tried what he could do, and came off on his back, dou­bled up with an oar under his chin, being not as­sist­ed at all. Then there was an in­ter­val of rest under boughs (such rest!) what time Mr. Lob­ley mopped, and, ar­rang­ing cush­ions, stretch­ers, and the like, danced the tight-rope the whole length of the boat like a man to whom shoes were a su­per­sti­tion and stock­ings slav­ery; and then came the sweet re­turn among de­li­cious odours of limes in bloom, and mu­si­cal rip­plings; and, all too soon, the great black city cast its shad­ow on the wa­ters, and its dark bridges spanned them as death spans life, and the ev­er­last­ing­ly-green gar­den seemed to be left for ev­er­last­ing, un­re­gain­able and far away.

‘Can­not peo­ple get through life with­out grit­ty stages, I won­der?’ Rosa thought next day, when the town was very grit­ty again, and ev­ery­thing had a strange and an un­com­fort­able ap­pear­ance of seem­ing to wait for some­thing that wouldn’t come. No. She began to think, that, now the Clois­ter­ham school-days had glid­ed past and gone, the grit­ty stages would begin to set in at in­ter­vals and make them­selves weari­ly known!

Yet what did Rosa ex­pect? Did she ex­pect Miss Twin­kle­ton? Miss Twin­kle­ton duly came. Forth from her back par­lour is­sued the Bil­lickin to re­ceive Miss Twin­kle­ton, and War was in the Bil­lickin’s eye from that fell mo­ment.

Miss Twin­kle­ton brought a quan­ti­ty of lug­gage with her, hav­ing all Rosa’s as well as her own. The Bil­lickin took it ill that Miss Twin­kle­ton’s mind, being sore­ly dis­turbed by this lug­gage, failed to take in her per­son­al iden­ti­ty with that clear­ness of per­cep­tion which was due to its de­mands. State­li­ness mount­ed her gloomy throne upon the Bil­lickin’s brow in con­se­quence. And when Miss Twin­kle­ton, in ag­i­ta­tion tak­ing stock of her trunks and pack­ages, of which she had sev­en­teen, par­tic­u­lar­ly count­ed in the Bil­lickin her­self as num­ber eleven, the B. found it nec­es­sary to re­pu­di­ate.

‘Things can­not too soon be put upon the foot­ing,’ said she, with a can­dour so demon­stra­tive as to be al­most ob­tru­sive, ‘that the per­son of the ’ouse is not a box nor yet a bun­dle, nor a car­pet-bag. No, I am ’ily obleeged to you, Miss Twin­kle­ton, nor yet a beg­gar.’

This last dis­claimer had ref­er­ence to Miss Twin­kle­ton’s dis­tract­ed­ly press­ing two-and-six­pence on her, in­stead of the cab­man.

Thus cast off, Miss Twin­kle­ton wild­ly in­quired, ‘which gen­tle­man’ was to be paid? There being two gen­tle­men in that po­si­tion (Miss Twin­kle­ton hav­ing ar­rived with two cabs), each gen­tle­man on being paid held forth his two-and-six­pence on the flat of his open hand, and, with a speech­less stare and a dropped jaw, dis­played his wrong to heav­en and earth. Ter­ri­fied by this alarm­ing spec­ta­cle, Miss Twin­kle­ton placed an­oth­er shilling in each hand; at the same time ap­peal­ing to the law in flur­ried ac­cents, and re­count­ing her lug­gage this time with the two gen­tle­men in, who caused the total to come out com­pli­cat­ed. Mean­while the two gen­tle­men, each look­ing very hard at the last shilling grum­bling­ly, as if it might be­come eigh­teen-pence if he kept his eyes on it, de­scend­ed the doorsteps, as­cend­ed their car­riages, and drove away, leav­ing Miss Twin­kle­ton on a bon­net-box in tears.

The Bil­lickin be­held this man­i­fes­ta­tion of weak­ness with­out sym­pa­thy, and gave di­rec­tions for ‘a young man to be got in’ to wres­tle with the lug­gage. When that glad­i­a­tor had dis­ap­peared from the arena, peace en­sued, and the new lodgers dined.

But the Bil­lickin had some­how come to the knowl­edge that Miss Twin­kle­ton kept a school. The leap from that knowl­edge to the in­fer­ence that Miss Twin­kle­ton set her­self to teach her some­thing, was easy. ‘But you don’t do it,’ so­lil­o­quised the Bil­lickin; ‘I am not your pupil, what­ev­er she,’ mean­ing Rosa, ‘may be, poor thing!’

Miss Twin­kle­ton, on the other hand, hav­ing changed her dress and re­cov­ered her spir­its, was an­i­mat­ed by a bland de­sire to im­prove the oc­ca­sion in all ways, and to be as serene a model as pos­si­ble. In a happy com­pro­mise be­tween her two states of ex­is­tence, she had al­ready be­come, with her work­bas­ket be­fore her, the equably vi­va­cious com­pan­ion with a slight ju­di­cious flavour­ing of in­for­ma­tion, when the Bil­lickin an­nounced her­self.

‘I will not hide from you, ladies,’ said the B., en­veloped in the shawl of state, ‘for it is not my char­ac­ter to hide nei­ther my mo­tives nor my ac­tions, that I take the lib­er­ty to look in upon you to ex­press a ’ope that your din­ner was to your lik­ing. Though not Pro­fessed but Plain, still her wages should be a suf­fi­cient ob­ject to her to stim­i­late to soar above mere roast and biled.’

‘We dined very well in­deed,’ said Rosa, ‘thank you.’

‘Ac­cus­tomed,’ said Miss Twin­kle­ton with a gra­cious air, which to the jeal­ous ears of the Bil­lickin seemed to add ‘my good woman’—‘ac­cus­tomed to a lib­er­al and nu­tri­tious, yet plain and salu­tary diet, we have found no rea­son to be­moan our ab­sence from the an­cient city, and the me­thod­i­cal house­hold, in which the quiet rou­tine of our lot has been hith­er­to cast.’

‘I did think it well to men­tion to my cook,’ ob­served the Bil­lickin with a gush of can­dour, ‘which I ’ope you will agree with, Miss Twin­kle­ton, was a right pre­cau­tion, that the young lady being used to what we should con­sid­er here but poor diet, had bet­ter be brought for­ward by de­grees. For, a rush from scanty feed­ing to gen­er­ous feed­ing, and from what you may call mess­ing to what you may call method, do re­quire a power of con­sti­tu­tion which is not often found in youth, par­tic­u­lar when un­der­mined by board­ing-school!’

It will be seen that the Bil­lickin now open­ly pit­ted her­self against Miss Twin­kle­ton, as one whom she had fully as­cer­tained to be her nat­u­ral enemy.

‘Your re­marks,’ re­turned Miss Twin­kle­ton, from a re­mote moral em­i­nence, ‘are well meant, I have no doubt; but you will per­mit me to ob­serve that they de­vel­op a mis­tak­en view of the sub­ject, which can only be im­put­ed to your ex­treme want of ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.’

‘My in­formi­a­tion,’ re­tort­ed the Bil­lickin, throw­ing in an extra syl­la­ble for the sake of em­pha­sis at once po­lite and pow­er­ful—‘my in­formi­a­tion, Miss Twin­kle­ton, were my own ex­pe­ri­ence, which I be­lieve is usu­al­ly con­sid­ered to be good guid­ance. But whether so or not, I was put in youth to a very gen­teel board­ing-school, the mis­tress being no less a lady than your­self, of about your own age or it may be some years younger, and a poor­ness of blood flowed from the table which has run through my life.’

‘Very like­ly,’ said Miss Twin­kle­ton, still from her dis­tant em­i­nence; ‘and very much to be de­plored.—Rosa, my dear, how are you get­ting on with your work?’

‘Miss Twin­kle­ton,’ re­sumed the Bil­lickin, in a court­ly man­ner, ‘be­fore re­tir­ing on the ’int, as a lady should, I wish to ask of your­self, as a lady, whether I am to con­sid­er that my words is doubt­ed?’

‘I am not aware on what ground you cher­ish such a sup­po­si­tion,’ began Miss Twin­kle­ton, when the Bil­lickin neat­ly stopped her.

‘Do not, if you please, put sup­po­si­tions be­twixt my lips where none such have been im­part­ed by my­self. Your flow of words is great, Miss Twin­kle­ton, and no doubt is ex­pect­ed from you by your pupils, and no doubt is con­sid­ered worth the money. No doubt, I am sure. But not pay­ing for flows of words, and not ask­ing to be favoured with them here, I wish to re­peat my ques­tion.’

‘If you refer to the pover­ty of your cir­cu­la­tion,’ began Miss Twin­kle­ton, when again the Bil­lickin neat­ly stopped her.

‘I have used no such ex­pres­sions.’

‘If you refer, then, to the poor­ness of your blood—’

‘Brought upon me,’ stip­u­lat­ed the Bil­lickin, ex­press­ly, ‘at a board­ing-school—’

‘Then,’ re­sumed Miss Twin­kle­ton, ‘all I can say is, that I am bound to be­lieve, on your as­sev­er­a­tion, that it is very poor in­deed. I can­not for­bear adding, that if that un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stance in­flu­ences your con­ver­sa­tion, it is much to be lament­ed, and it is em­i­nent­ly de­sir­able that your blood were rich­er.—Rosa, my dear, how are you get­ting on with your work?’

‘Hem! Be­fore re­tir­ing, Miss,’ pro­claimed the Bil­lickin to Rosa, lofti­ly can­celling Miss Twin­kle­ton, ‘I should wish it to be un­der­stood be­tween your­self and me that my trans­ac­tions in fu­ture is with you alone. I know no el­der­ly lady here, Miss, none older than your­self.’

‘A high­ly de­sir­able ar­range­ment, Rosa my dear,’ ob­served Miss Twin­kle­ton.

‘It is not, Miss,’ said the Bil­lickin, with a sar­cas­tic smile, ‘that I pos­sess the Mill I have heard of, in which old sin­gle ladies could be ground up young (what a gift it would be to some of us), but that I limit my­self to you to­tal­ly.’

‘When I have any de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate a re­quest to the per­son of the house, Rosa my dear,’ ob­served Miss Twin­kle­ton with ma­jes­tic cheer­ful­ness, ‘I will make it known to you, and you will kind­ly un­der­take, I am sure, that it is con­veyed to the prop­er quar­ter.’

‘Good-evening, Miss,’ said the Bil­lickin, at once af­fec­tion­ate­ly and dis­tant­ly. ‘Being alone in my eyes, I wish you good-evening with best wish­es, and do not find my­self drove, I am truly ’appy to say, into ex­press­ing my con­tempt for an in­di­wid­u­al, un­for­tu­nate­ly for your­self, be­long­ing to you.’

The Bil­lickin grace­ful­ly with­drew with this part­ing speech, and from that time Rosa oc­cu­pied the rest­less po­si­tion of shut­tle­cock be­tween these two bat­tle­dores. Noth­ing could be done with­out a smart match being played out. Thus, on the dai­ly-aris­ing ques­tion of din­ner, Miss Twin­kle­ton would say, the three being pre­sent to­geth­er:

‘Per­haps, my love, you will con­sult with the per­son of the house, whether she can pro­cure us a lamb’s fry; or, fail­ing that, a roast fowl.’

On which the Bil­lickin would re­tort (Rosa not hav­ing spo­ken a word), ‘If you was bet­ter ac­cus­tomed to butch­er’s meat, Miss, you would not en­ter­tain the idea of a lamb’s fry. First­ly, be­cause lambs has long been sheep, and sec­ond­ly, be­cause there is such things as killing-days, and there is not. As to roast fowls, Miss, why you must be quite sur­feit­ed with roast fowls, let­ting alone your buy­ing, when you mar­ket for your­self, the agedest of poul­try with the scaliest of legs, quite as if you was ac­cus­tomed to pick­ing ’em out for cheap­ness. Try a lit­tle in­wen­tion, Miss. Use your­self to ’ouse­keep­ing a bit. Come now, think of some­think else.’

To this en­cour­age­ment, of­fered with the in­dul­gent tol­er­a­tion of a wise and lib­er­al ex­pert, Miss Twin­kle­ton would re­join, red­den­ing:

‘Or, my dear, you might pro­pose to the per­son of the house a duck.’

‘Well, Miss!’ the Bil­lickin would ex­claim (still no word being spo­ken by Rosa), ‘you do sur­prise me when you speak of ducks! Not to men­tion that they’re get­ting out of sea­son and very dear, it re­al­ly strikes to my heart to see you have a duck; for the breast, which is the only del­i­cate cuts in a duck, al­ways goes in a di­rec­tion which I can­not imag­ine where, and your own plate comes down so mis­er­ably skin-and-bony! Try again, Miss. Think more of your­self, and less of oth­ers. A dish of sweet­breads now, or a bit of mut­ton. Some­thing at which you can get your equal chance.’

Oc­ca­sion­al­ly the game would wax very brisk in­deed, and would be kept up with a smart­ness ren­der­ing such an en­counter as this quite tame. But the Bil­lickin al­most in­vari­ably made by far the high­er score; and would come in with side hits of the most un­ex­pect­ed and ex­traor­di­nary de­scrip­tion, when she seemed with­out a chance.

All this did not im­prove the grit­ty state of things in Lon­don, or the air that Lon­don had ac­quired in Rosa’s eyes of wait­ing for some­thing that never came. Tired of work­ing, and con­vers­ing with Miss Twin­kle­ton, she sug­gest­ed work­ing and read­ing: to which Miss Twin­kle­ton read­i­ly as­sent­ed, as an ad­mirable read­er, of tried pow­ers. But Rosa soon made the dis­cov­ery that Miss Twin­kle­ton didn’t read fair­ly. She cut the love-scenes, in­ter­po­lat­ed pas­sages in praise of fe­male celiba­cy, and was guilty of other glar­ing pious frauds. As an in­stance in point, take the glow­ing pas­sage: ‘Ever dear­est and best adored,—said Ed­ward, clasp­ing the dear head to his breast, and draw­ing the silken hair through his ca­ress­ing fin­gers, from which he suf­fered it to fall like gold­en rain,—ever dear­est and best adored, let us fly from the un­sym­pa­thet­ic world and the ster­ile cold­ness of the stony-heart­ed, to the rich warm Par­adise of Trust and Love.’ Miss Twin­kle­ton’s fraud­u­lent ver­sion tame­ly ran thus: ‘Ever en­gaged to me with the con­sent of our par­ents on both sides, and the ap­pro­ba­tion of the sil­ver-haired rec­tor of the dis­trict,—said Ed­ward, re­spect­ful­ly rais­ing to his lips the taper fin­gers so skil­ful in em­broi­dery, tam­bour, cro­chet, and other truly fem­i­nine arts,—let me call on thy papa ere to-mor­row’s dawn has sunk into the west, and pro­pose a sub­ur­ban es­tab­lish­ment, lowly it may be, but with­in our means, where he will be al­ways wel­come as an evening guest, and where every ar­range­ment shall in­vest econ­o­my, and con­stant in­ter­change of scholas­tic ac­quire­ments with the at­tributes of the min­is­ter­ing angel to do­mes­tic bliss.’

As the days crept on and noth­ing hap­pened, the neigh­bours began to say that the pret­ty girl at Bil­lickin’s, who looked so wist­ful­ly and so much out of the grit­ty win­dows of the draw­ing-room, seemed to be los­ing her spir­its. The pret­ty girl might have lost them but for the ac­ci­dent of light­ing on some books of voy­ages and sea-ad­ven­ture. As a com­pen­sa­tion against their ro­mance, Miss Twin­kle­ton, read­ing aloud, made the most of all the lat­i­tudes and lon­gi­tudes, bear­ings, winds, cur­rents, off­sets, and other statis­tics (which she felt to be none the less im­prov­ing be­cause they ex­pressed noth­ing what­ev­er to her); while Rosa, lis­ten­ing in­tent­ly, made the most of what was near­est to her heart. So they both did bet­ter than be­fore.


CHAP­TER XXIII
THE DAWN AGAIN

Al­though Mr. Crisparkle and John Jasper met daily under the Cathe­dral roof, noth­ing at any time passed be­tween them hav­ing ref­er­ence to Edwin Drood, after the time, more than half a year gone by, when Jasper mute­ly showed the Minor Canon the con­clu­sion and the res­o­lu­tion en­tered in his Diary. It is not like­ly that they ever met, though so often, with­out the thoughts of each re­vert­ing to the sub­ject. It is not like­ly that they ever met, though so often, with­out a sen­sa­tion on the part of each that the other was a per­plex­ing se­cret to him. Jasper as the de­nounc­er and pur­suer of Neville Land­less, and Mr. Crisparkle as his con­sis­tent ad­vo­cate and pro­tec­tor, must at least have stood suf­fi­cient­ly in op­po­si­tion to have spec­u­lat­ed with keen in­ter­est on the steadi­ness and next di­rec­tion of the other’s de­signs. But nei­ther ever broached the theme.

False pre­tence not being in the Minor Canon’s na­ture, he doubt­less dis­played open­ly that he would at any time have re­vived the sub­ject, and even de­sired to dis­cuss it. The de­ter­mined ret­i­cence of Jasper, how­ev­er, was not to be so ap­proached. Im­pas­sive, moody, soli­tary, res­o­lute, so con­cen­trat­ed on one idea, and on its at­ten­dant fixed pur­pose, that he would share it with no fel­low-crea­ture, he lived apart from human life. Con­stant­ly ex­er­cis­ing an Art which brought him into me­chan­i­cal har­mo­ny with oth­ers, and which could not have been pur­sued un­less he and they had been in the nicest me­chan­i­cal re­la­tions and uni­son, it is cu­ri­ous to con­sid­er that the spir­it of the man was in moral ac­cor­dance or in­ter­change with noth­ing around him. This in­deed he had con­fid­ed to his lost nephew, be­fore the oc­ca­sion for his pre­sent in­flex­i­bil­i­ty arose.

That he must know of Rosa’s abrupt de­par­ture, and that he must di­vine its cause, was not to be doubt­ed. Did he sup­pose that he had ter­ri­fied her into si­lence? or did he sup­pose that she had im­part­ed to any one—to Mr. Crisparkle him­self, for in­stance—the par­tic­u­lars of his last in­ter­view with her? Mr. Crisparkle could not de­ter­mine this in his mind. He could not but admit, how­ev­er, as a just man, that it was not, of it­self, a crime to fall in love with Rosa, any more than it was a crime to offer to set love above re­venge.

The dread­ful sus­pi­cion of Jasper, which Rosa was so shocked to have re­ceived into her imag­i­na­tion, ap­peared to have no har­bour in Mr. Crisparkle’s. If it ever haunt­ed He­le­na’s thoughts or Neville’s, nei­ther gave it one spo­ken word of ut­ter­ance. Mr. Grew­gious took no pains to con­ceal his im­pla­ca­ble dis­like of Jasper, yet he never re­ferred it, how­ev­er dis­tant­ly, to such a source. But he was a ret­i­cent as well as an ec­cen­tric man; and he made no men­tion of a cer­tain evening when he warmed his hands at the gate­house fire, and looked steadi­ly down upon a cer­tain heap of torn and miry clothes upon the floor.

Drowsy Clois­ter­ham, when­ev­er it awoke to a pass­ing re­con­sid­er­a­tion of a story above six months old and dis­missed by the bench of mag­is­trates, was pret­ty equal­ly di­vid­ed in opin­ion whether John Jasper’s beloved nephew had been killed by his treach­er­ous­ly pas­sion­ate rival, or in an open strug­gle; or had, for his own pur­pos­es, spir­it­ed him­self away. It then lift­ed up its head, to no­tice that the be­reaved Jasper was still ever de­vot­ed to dis­cov­ery and re­venge; and then dozed off again. This was the con­di­tion of mat­ters, all round, at the pe­ri­od to which the pre­sent his­to­ry has now at­tained.

The Cathe­dral doors have closed for the night; and the Choir-mas­ter, on a short leave of ab­sence for two or three ser­vices, sets his face to­wards Lon­don. He trav­els thith­er by the means by which Rosa trav­elled, and ar­rives, as Rosa ar­rived, on a hot, dusty evening.

His trav­el­ling bag­gage is eas­i­ly car­ried in his hand, and he re­pairs with it on foot, to a hy­brid hotel in a lit­tle square be­hind Alder­s­gate Street, near the Gen­er­al Post Of­fice. It is hotel, board­ing-house, or lodg­ing-house, at its vis­i­tor’s op­tion. It an­nounces it­self, in the new Rail­way Ad­ver­tis­ers, as a novel en­ter­prise, timid­ly be­gin­ning to spring up. It bash­ful­ly, al­most apolo­get­i­cal­ly, gives the trav­eller to un­der­stand that it does not ex­pect him, on the good old con­sti­tu­tion­al hotel plan, to order a pint of sweet black­ing for his drink­ing, and throw it away; but in­sin­u­ates that he may have his boots blacked in­stead of his stom­ach, and maybe also have bed, break­fast, at­ten­dance, and a porter up all night, for a cer­tain fixed charge. From these and sim­i­lar premis­es, many true Britons in the low­est spir­its de­duce that the times are lev­el­ling times, ex­cept in the ar­ti­cle of high roads, of which there will short­ly be not one in Eng­land.

He eats with­out ap­petite, and soon goes forth again. East­ward and still east­ward through the stale streets he takes his way, until he reach­es his des­ti­na­tion: a mis­er­able court, spe­cial­ly mis­er­able among many such.

He as­cends a bro­ken stair­case, opens a door, looks into a dark sti­fling room, and says: ‘Are you alone here?’

‘Alone, deary; worse luck for me, and bet­ter for you,’ replies a croak­ing voice. ‘Come in, come in, who­ev­er you be: I can’t see you till I light a match, yet I seem to know the sound of your speak­ing. I’m ac­quaint­ed with you, ain’t I?’

‘Light your match, and try.’

‘So I will, deary, so I will; but my hand that shakes, as I can’t lay it on a match all in a mo­ment. And I cough so, that, put my match­es where I may, I never find ’em there. They jump and start, as I cough and cough, like live things. Are you off a voy­age, deary?’

‘No.’

‘Not sea­far­ing?’

‘No.’

‘Well, there’s land cus­tomers, and there’s water cus­tomers. I’m a moth­er to both. Dif­fer­ent from Jack Chi­na­man t’other side the court. He ain’t a fa­ther to nei­ther. It ain’t in him. And he ain’t got the true se­cret of mix­ing, though he charges as much as me that has, and more if he can get it. Here’s a match, and now where’s the can­dle? If my cough takes me, I shall cough out twen­ty match­es afore I gets a light.’

But she finds the can­dle, and lights it, be­fore the cough comes on. It seizes her in the mo­ment of suc­cess, and she sits down rock­ing her­self to and fro, and gasp­ing at in­ter­vals: ‘O, my lungs is awful bad! my lungs is wore away to cab­bage-nets!’ until the fit is over. Dur­ing its con­tin­u­ance she has had no power of sight, or any other power not ab­sorbed in the strug­gle; but as it leaves her, she be­gins to strain her eyes, and as soon as she is able to ar­tic­u­late, she cries, star­ing:

‘Why, it’s you!’

‘Are you so sur­prised to see me?’

‘I thought I never should have seen you again, deary. I thought you was dead, and gone to Heav­en.’

‘Why?’

‘I didn’t sup­pose you could have kept away, alive, so long, from the poor old soul with the real re­ceipt for mix­ing it. And you are in mourn­ing too! Why didn’t you come and have a pipe or two of com­fort? Did they leave you money, per­haps, and so you didn’t want com­fort?’

‘No.’

‘Who was they as died, deary?’

‘A rel­a­tive.’

‘Died of what, lovey?’

‘Prob­a­bly, Death.’

‘We are short to-night!’ cries the woman, with a pro­pi­tia­to­ry laugh. ‘Short and snap­pish we are! But we’re out of sorts for want of a smoke. We’ve got the all-overs, haven’t us, deary? But this is the place to cure ’em in; this is the place where the all-overs is smoked off.’

‘You may make ready, then,’ replies the vis­i­tor, ‘as soon as you like.’

He di­vests him­self of his shoes, loosens his cra­vat, and lies across the foot of the squalid bed, with his head rest­ing on his left hand.

‘Now you begin to look like your­self,’ says the woman ap­prov­ing­ly. ‘Now I begin to know my old cus­tomer in­deed! Been try­ing to mix for your­self this long time, pop­pet?’

‘I have been tak­ing it now and then in my own way.’

‘Never take it your own way. It ain’t good for trade, and it ain’t good for you. Where’s my ink-bot­tle, and where’s my thim­ble, and where’s my lit­tle spoon? He’s going to take it in a art­ful form now, my deary dear!’

En­ter­ing on her pro­cess, and be­gin­ning to bub­ble and blow at the faint spark en­closed in the hol­low of her hands, she speaks from time to time, in a tone of snuf­fling sat­is­fac­tion, with­out leav­ing off. When he speaks, he does so with­out look­ing at her, and as if his thoughts were al­ready roam­ing away by an­tic­i­pa­tion.

‘I’ve got a pret­ty many smokes ready for you, first and last, haven’t I, chuck­ey?’

‘A good many.’

‘When you first come, you was quite new to it; warn’t ye?’

‘Yes, I was eas­i­ly dis­posed of, then.’

‘But you got on in the world, and was able by-and-by to take your pipe with the best of ’em, warn’t ye?’

‘Ah; and the worst.’

‘It’s just ready for you. What a sweet singer you was when you first come! Used to drop your head, and sing your­self off like a bird! It’s ready for you now, deary.’

He takes it from her with great care, and puts the mouth­piece to his lips. She seats her­self be­side him, ready to re­fill the pipe.

After in­hal­ing a few whiffs in si­lence, he doubt­ing­ly ac­costs her with:

‘Is it as po­tent as it used to be?’

‘What do you speak of, deary?’

‘What should I speak of, but what I have in my mouth?’

‘It’s just the same. Al­ways the iden­ti­cal same.’

‘It doesn’t taste so. And it’s slow­er.’

‘You’ve got more used to it, you see.’

‘That may be the cause, cer­tain­ly. Look here.’ He stops, be­comes dreamy, and seems to for­get that he has in­vit­ed her at­ten­tion. She bends over him, and speaks in his ear.

‘I’m at­tend­ing to you. Says you just now, Look here. Says I now, I’m at­tend­ing to ye. We was talk­ing just be­fore of your being used to it.’

‘I know all that. I was only think­ing. Look here. Sup­pose you had some­thing in your mind; some­thing you were going to do.’

‘Yes, deary; some­thing I was going to do?’

‘But had not quite de­ter­mined to do.’

‘Yes, deary.’

‘Might or might not do, you un­der­stand.’

‘Yes.’ With the point of a nee­dle she stirs the con­tents of the bowl.

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

She nods her head. ‘Over and over again.’

‘Just like me! I did it over and over again. I have done it hun­dreds of thou­sands of times in this room.’

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

‘It was pleas­ant to do!’

He says this with a sav­age air, and a spring or start at her. Quite un­moved she re­touch­es and re­plen­ish­es the con­tents of the bowl with her lit­tle spat­u­la. See­ing her in­tent upon the oc­cu­pa­tion, he sinks into his for­mer at­ti­tude.

‘It was a jour­ney, a dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous jour­ney. That was the sub­ject in 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, as though at some imag­i­nary ob­ject far be­neath. The woman looks at him, as his spas­mod­ic face ap­proach­es close to hers, and not at his point­ing. She seems to know what the in­flu­ence of her per­fect qui­etude would be; if so, she has not mis­cal­cu­lat­ed it, for he sub­sides again.

‘Well; I have told you I did it here hun­dreds of thou­sands of times. What do I say? I did it mil­lions and bil­lions of times. 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.’

‘That’s the jour­ney you have been away upon,’ she qui­et­ly re­marks.

He glares at her as he smokes; and then, his eyes be­com­ing filmy, an­swers: ‘That’s the jour­ney.’

Si­lence en­sues. His eyes are some­times closed and some­times open. The woman sits be­side him, very at­ten­tive to the pipe, which is all the while at his lips.

‘I’ll war­rant,’ she ob­serves, when he has been look­ing fixed­ly at her for some con­sec­u­tive mo­ments, with a sin­gu­lar ap­pear­ance in his eyes of seem­ing to see her a long way off, in­stead of so near him: ‘I’ll war­rant you made the jour­ney in a many ways, when you made it so often?’

‘No, al­ways in one way.’

‘Al­ways in the same way?’

‘Ay.’

‘In the way in which it was re­al­ly made at last?’

‘Ay.’

‘And al­ways took the same plea­sure in harp­ing on it?’

‘Ay.’

For the time he ap­pears un­equal to any other reply than this lazy mono­syl­lab­ic as­sent. Prob­a­bly to as­sure her­self that it is not the as­sent of a mere au­toma­ton, she re­vers­es the form of her next sen­tence.

‘Did you never get tired of it, deary, and try to call up some­thing else for a change?’

He strug­gles into a sit­ting pos­ture, and re­torts upon her: ‘What do you mean? What did I want? What did I come for?’

She gen­tly lays him back again, and be­fore re­turn­ing him the in­stru­ment he has dropped, re­vives the fire in it with her own breath; then says to him, coax­ing­ly:

‘Sure, sure, sure! Yes, yes, yes! Now I go along with you. You was too quick for me. I see now. You come o’ pur­pose to take the jour­ney. Why, I might have known it, through its stand­ing by you so.’

He an­swers first with a laugh, and then with a pas­sion­ate set­ting of his teeth: ‘Yes, I came on pur­pose. When I could not bear my life, I came to get the re­lief, and I got it. It was one! It was one!’ This rep­e­ti­tion with ex­traor­di­nary ve­he­mence, and the snarl of a wolf.

She ob­serves him very cau­tious­ly, as though men­tal­ly feel­ing her way to her next re­mark. It is: ‘There was a fel­low-trav­eller, deary.’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ He breaks into a ring­ing laugh, or rather yell.

‘To think,’ he cries, ‘how often fel­low-trav­eller, and yet not know it! To think how many times he went the jour­ney, and never saw the road!’

The woman kneels upon the floor, with her arms crossed on the cov­er­let of the bed, close by him, and her chin upon them. In this crouch­ing at­ti­tude she watch­es him. The pipe is falling from his mouth. She puts it back, and lay­ing her hand upon his chest, moves him slight­ly from side to side. Upon that he speaks, as if she had spo­ken.

‘Yes! I al­ways made the jour­ney first, be­fore the changes of colours and the great land­scapes and glit­ter­ing pro­ces­sions began. They couldn’t begin till it was off my mind. I had no room till then for any­thing else.’

Once more he laps­es into si­lence. Once more she lays her hand upon his chest, and moves him slight­ly to and fro, as a cat might stim­u­late a half-slain mouse. Once more he speaks, as if she had spo­ken.

‘What? I told you so. When it comes to be real at last, it is so short that it seems un­re­al for the first time. Hark!’

‘Yes, deary. I’m lis­ten­ing.’

‘Time and place are both at hand.’

He is on his feet, speak­ing in a whis­per, and as if in the dark.

‘Time, place, and fel­low-trav­eller,’ she sug­gests, adopt­ing his tone, and hold­ing him soft­ly by the arm.

‘How could the time be at hand un­less the fel­low-trav­eller was? Hush! The jour­ney’s made. It’s over.’

‘So soon?’

‘That’s what I said to you. So soon. Wait a lit­tle. This is a vi­sion. I shall sleep it off. It has been too short and easy. I must have a bet­ter vi­sion than this; this is the poor­est of all. No strug­gle, no con­scious­ness of peril, no en­treaty—and yet I never saw that be­fore.’ With a start.

‘Saw what, deary?’

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

He has ac­com­pa­nied this in­co­her­ence with some wild un­mean­ing ges­tures; but they trail off into the pro­gres­sive in­ac­tion of stu­por, and he lies a log upon the bed.

The woman, how­ev­er, is still in­quis­i­tive. With a rep­e­ti­tion of her cat-like ac­tion she slight­ly stirs his body again, and lis­tens; stirs again, and lis­tens; whis­pers to it, and lis­tens. Find­ing it past all rous­ing for the time, she slow­ly gets upon her feet, with an air of dis­ap­point­ment, and flicks the face with the back of her hand in turn­ing from it.

But she goes no fur­ther away from it than the chair upon the hearth. She sits in it, with an elbow on one of its arms, and her chin upon her hand, in­tent upon him. ‘I heard ye say once,’ she croaks under her breath, ‘I heard ye say once, when I was lying where you’re lying, and you were mak­ing your spec­u­la­tions upon me, “Un­in­tel­li­gi­ble!” I heard you say so, of two more than me. But don’t ye be too sure al­ways; don’t be ye too sure, beau­ty!’

Un­wink­ing, cat-like, and in­tent, she present­ly adds: ‘Not so po­tent as it once was? Ah! Per­haps not at first. You may be more right there. Prac­tice makes per­fect. I may have learned the se­cret how to make ye talk, deary.’

He talks no more, whether or no. Twitch­ing in an ugly way from time to time, both as to his face and limbs, he lies heavy and silent. The wretched can­dle burns down; the woman takes its ex­pir­ing end be­tween her fin­gers, lights an­oth­er at it, crams the gut­ter­ing fry­ing morsel deep into the can­dle­stick, and rams it home with the new can­dle, as if she were load­ing some ill-savoured and un­seem­ly weapon of witchcraft; the new can­dle in its turn burns down; and still he lies in­sen­si­ble. At length what re­mains of the last can­dle is blown out, and day­light looks into the room.

It has not looked very long, when he sits up, chilled and shak­ing, slow­ly re­cov­ers con­scious­ness of where he is, and makes him­self ready to de­part. The woman re­ceives what he pays her with a grate­ful, ‘Bless ye, bless ye, deary!’ and seems, tired out, to begin mak­ing her­self ready for sleep as he leaves the room.

But seem­ing may be false or true. It is false in this case; for, the mo­ment the stairs have ceased to creak under his tread, she glides after him, mut­ter­ing em­phat­i­cal­ly: ‘I’ll not miss ye twice!’

There is no egress from the court but by its en­trance. With a weird peep from the door­way, she watch­es for his look­ing back. He does not look back be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing, with a wa­ver­ing step. She fol­lows him, peeps from the court, sees him still fal­ter­ing on with­out look­ing back, and holds him in view.

He re­pairs to the back of Alder­s­gate Street, where a door im­me­di­ate­ly opens to his knock­ing. She crouch­es in an­oth­er door­way, watch­ing that one, and eas­i­ly com­pre­hend­ing that he puts up tem­porar­i­ly at that house. Her pa­tience is un­ex­haust­ed by hours. For sus­te­nance she can, and does, buy bread with­in a hun­dred yards, and milk as it is car­ried past her.

He comes forth again at noon, hav­ing changed his dress, but car­ry­ing noth­ing in his hand, and hav­ing noth­ing car­ried for him. He is not going back into the coun­try, there­fore, just yet. She fol­lows him a lit­tle way, hes­i­tates, in­stan­ta­neous­ly turns con­fi­dent­ly, and goes straight into the house he has quit­ted.

‘Is the gen­tle­man from Clois­ter­ham in­doors?

‘Just gone out.’

‘Un­lucky. When does the gen­tle­man re­turn to Clois­ter­ham?’

‘At six this evening.’

‘Bless ye and thank ye. May the Lord pros­per a busi­ness where a civil ques­tion, even from a poor soul, is so civil­ly an­swered!’

‘I’ll not miss ye twice!’ re­peats the poor soul in the street, and not so civil­ly. ‘I lost ye last, where that om­nibus you got into nigh your jour­ney’s end plied be­twixt the sta­tion and the place. I wasn’t so much as cer­tain that you even went right on to the place. Now I know ye did. My gen­tle­man from Clois­ter­ham, I’ll be there be­fore ye, and bide your com­ing. I’ve swore my oath that I’ll not miss ye twice!’

Ac­cord­ing­ly, that same evening the poor soul stands in Clois­ter­ham High Street, look­ing at the many quaint gables of the Nuns’ House, and get­ting through the time as she best can until nine o’clock; at which hour she has rea­son to sup­pose that the ar­riv­ing om­nibus pas­sen­gers may have some in­ter­est for her. The friend­ly dark­ness, at that hour, ren­ders it easy for her to as­cer­tain whether this be so or not; and it is so, for the pas­sen­ger not to be missed twice ar­rives among the rest.

‘Now let me see what be­comes of you. Go on!’

An ob­ser­va­tion ad­dressed to the air, and yet it might be ad­dressed to the pas­sen­ger, so com­pli­ant­ly does he go on along the High Street until he comes to an arched gate­way, at which he un­ex­pect­ed­ly van­ish­es. The poor soul quick­ens her pace; is swift, and close upon him en­ter­ing under the gate­way; but only sees a postern stair­case on one side of it, and on the other side an an­cient vault­ed room, in which a large-head­ed, gray-haired gen­tle­man is writ­ing, under the odd cir­cum­stances of sit­ting open to the thor­ough­fare and eye­ing all who pass, as if he were toll-tak­er of the gate­way: though the way is free.

‘Hal­loa!’ he cries in a low voice, see­ing her brought to a stand-still: ‘who are you look­ing for?’

‘There was a gen­tle­man passed in here this minute, sir.’

‘Of course there was. What do you want with him?’

‘Where do he live, deary?’

‘Live? Up that stair­case.’

‘Bless ye! Whis­per. What’s his name, deary?’

‘Sur­name Jasper, Chris­tian name John. Mr. John Jasper.’

‘Has he a call­ing, good gen­tle­man?’

‘Call­ing? Yes. Sings in the choir.’

‘In the spire?’

‘Choir.’

‘What’s that?’

Mr. Datch­ery rises from his pa­pers, and comes to his doorstep. ‘Do you know what a cathe­dral is?’ he asks, jo­cose­ly.

The woman nods.

‘What is it?’

She looks puz­zled, cast­ing about in her mind to find a def­i­ni­tion, when it oc­curs to her that it is eas­i­er to point out the sub­stan­tial ob­ject it­self, mas­sive against the dark-blue sky and the early stars.

‘That’s the an­swer. Go in there at seven to-mor­row morn­ing, and you may see Mr. John Jasper, and hear him too.’

‘Thank ye! Thank ye!’

The burst of tri­umph in which she thanks him does not es­cape the no­tice of the sin­gle buffer of an easy tem­per liv­ing idly on his means. He glances at her; clasps his hands be­hind him, as the wont of such buffers is; and lounges along the echo­ing Precincts at her side.

‘Or,’ he sug­gests, with a back­ward hitch of his head, ‘you can go up at once to Mr. Jasper’s rooms there.’

The woman eyes him with a cun­ning smile, and shakes her head.

‘O! you don’t want to speak to him?’

She re­peats her dumb reply, and forms with her lips a sound­less ‘No.’

‘You can ad­mire him at a dis­tance three times a day, when­ev­er you like. It’s a long way to come for that, though.’

The woman looks up quick­ly. If Mr. Datch­ery thinks she is to be so in­duced to de­clare where she comes from, he is of a much eas­i­er tem­per than she is. But she ac­quits him of such an art­ful thought, as he lounges along, like the char­tered bore of the city, with his un­cov­ered gray hair blow­ing about, and his pur­pose­less hands rat­tling the loose money in the pock­ets of his trousers.

The chink of the money has an at­trac­tion for her greedy ears. ‘Wouldn’t you help me to pay for my trav­eller’s lodg­ing, dear gen­tle­man, and to pay my way along? I am a poor soul, I am in­deed, and trou­bled with a grievous cough.’

‘You know the trav­ellers’ lodg­ing, I per­ceive, and are mak­ing di­rect­ly for it,’ is Mr. Datch­ery’s bland com­ment, still rat­tling his loose money. ‘Been here often, my good woman?’

‘Once in all my life.’

‘Ay, ay?’

They have ar­rived at the en­trance to the Monks’ Vine­yard. An ap­pro­pri­ate re­mem­brance, pre­sent­ing an ex­em­plary model for im­i­ta­tion, is re­vived in the woman’s mind by the sight of the place. She stops at the gate, and says en­er­get­i­cal­ly:

‘By this token, though you mayn’t be­lieve it, That a young gen­tle­man gave me three-and-six­pence as I was cough­ing my breath away on this very grass. I asked him for three-and-six­pence, and he gave it me.’

‘Wasn’t it a lit­tle cool to name your sum?’ hints Mr. Datch­ery, still rat­tling. ‘Isn’t it cus­tom­ary to leave the amount open? Mightn’t it have had the ap­pear­ance, to the young gen­tle­man—only the ap­pear­ance—that he was rather dic­tat­ed to?’

‘Look’ee here, deary,’ she replies, in a con­fi­den­tial and per­sua­sive tone, ‘I want­ed the money to lay it out on a medicine as does me good, and as I deal in. I told the young gen­tle­man so, and he gave it me, and I laid it out hon­est to the last brass far­den. I want to lay out the same sum in the same way now; and if you’ll give it me, I’ll lay it out hon­est to the last brass far­den again, upon my soul!’

‘What’s the medicine?’

‘I’ll be hon­est with you be­fore­hand, as well as after. It’s opium.’

Mr. Datch­ery, with a sud­den change of coun­te­nance, gives her a sud­den look.

‘It’s opium, deary. Nei­ther more nor less. And it’s like a human cree­tur so far, that you al­ways hear what can be said against it, but sel­dom what can be said in its praise.’

Mr. Datch­ery be­gins very slow­ly to count out the sum de­mand­ed of him. Greed­i­ly watch­ing his hands, she con­tin­ues to hold forth on the great ex­am­ple set him.

‘It was last Christ­mas Eve, just arter dark, the once that I was here afore, when the young gen­tle­man gave me the three-and-six.’ Mr. Datch­ery stops in his count­ing, finds he has count­ed wrong, shakes his money to­geth­er, and be­gins again.

‘And the young gen­tle­man’s name,’ she adds, ‘was Edwin.’

Mr. Datch­ery drops some money, stoops to pick it up, and red­dens with the ex­er­tion as he asks:

‘How do you know the young gen­tle­man’s name?’

‘I asked him for it, and he told it me. I only asked him the two ques­tions, what was his Chris’en name, and whether he’d a sweet­heart? And he an­swered, Edwin, and he hadn’t.’

Mr. Datch­ery paus­es with the se­lect­ed coins in his hand, rather as if he were falling into a brown study of their value, and couldn’t bear to part with them. The woman looks at him dis­trust­ful­ly, and with her anger brew­ing for the event of his think­ing bet­ter of the gift; but he be­stows it on her as if he were ab­stract­ing his mind from the sac­ri­fice, and with many servile thanks she goes her way.

John Jasper’s lamp is kin­dled, and his light­house is shin­ing when Mr. Datch­ery re­turns alone to­wards it. As mariners on a dan­ger­ous voy­age, ap­proach­ing an iron-bound coast, may look along the beams of the warn­ing light to the haven lying be­yond it that may never be reached, so Mr. Datch­ery’s wist­ful gaze is di­rect­ed to this bea­con, and be­yond.

His ob­ject in now re­vis­it­ing his lodg­ing is mere­ly to put on the hat which seems so su­per­flu­ous an ar­ti­cle in his wardrobe. It is half-past ten by the Cathe­dral clock when he walks out into the Precincts again; he lingers and looks about him, as though, the en­chant­ed hour when Mr. Dur­dles may be stoned home hav­ing struck, he had some ex­pec­ta­tion of see­ing the Imp who is ap­point­ed to the mis­sion of ston­ing him.

In ef­fect, that Power of Evil is abroad. Hav­ing noth­ing liv­ing to stone at the mo­ment, he is dis­cov­ered by Mr. Datch­ery in the un­holy of­fice of ston­ing the dead, through the rail­ings of the church­yard. The Imp finds this a rel­ish­ing and piquing pur­suit; first­ly, be­cause their rest­ing-place is an­nounced to be sa­cred; and sec­ond­ly, be­cause the tall head­stones are suf­fi­cient­ly like them­selves, on their beat in the dark, to jus­ti­fy the de­li­cious fancy that they are hurt when hit.

Mr. Datch­ery hails with him: ‘Hal­loa, Winks!’

He ac­knowl­edges the hail with: ‘Hal­loa, Dick!’ Their ac­quain­tance seem­ing­ly hav­ing been es­tab­lished on a fa­mil­iar foot­ing.

‘But, I say,’ he re­mon­strates, ‘don’t yer go a-mak­ing my name pub­lic. I never means to plead to no name, mind yer. When they says to me in the Lock-up, a-go­ing to put me down in the book, “What’s your name?” I says to them, “Find out.” Like­wise when they says, “What’s your re­li­gion?” I says, “Find out.”’

Which, it may be ob­served in pass­ing, it would be im­mense­ly dif­fi­cult for the State, how­ev­er sta­tis­ti­cal, to do.

‘Asides which,’ adds the boy, ‘there ain’t no fam­i­ly of Winkses.’

‘I think there must be.’

‘Yer lie, there ain’t. The trav­ellers give me the name on ac­count of my get­ting no set­tled sleep and being knocked up all night; where­by I gets one eye roused open afore I’ve shut the other. That’s what Winks means. Deputy’s the nigh­est name to in­dict me by: but yer wouldn’t catch me plead­ing to that, nei­ther.’

‘Deputy be it al­ways, then. We two are good friends; eh, Deputy?’

‘Jolly good.’

‘I for­gave you the debt you owed me when we first be­came ac­quaint­ed, and many of my six­pences have come your way since; eh, Deputy?’

‘Ah! And what’s more, yer ain’t no friend o’ Jarsper’s. What did he go a-hist­ing me off my legs for?’

‘What in­deed! But never mind him now. A shilling of mine is going your way to-night, Deputy. You have just taken in a lodger I have been speak­ing to; an in­firm woman with a cough.’

‘Puffer,’ as­sents Deputy, with a shrewd leer of recog­ni­tion, and smok­ing an imag­i­nary pipe, with his head very much on one side and his eyes very much out of their places: ‘Hopeum Puffer.’

‘What is her name?’

‘’Er Royal High­ness the Princess Puffer.’

‘She has some other name than that; where does she live?’

‘Up in Lon­don. Among the Jacks.’

‘The sailors?’

‘I said so; Jacks; and Chayn­er men: and hother Knifers.’

‘I should like to know, through you, ex­act­ly where she lives.’

‘All right. Give us ’old.’

A shilling pass­es; and, in that spir­it of con­fi­dence which should per­vade all busi­ness trans­ac­tions be­tween prin­ci­pals of hon­our, this piece of busi­ness is con­sid­ered done.

‘But here’s a lark!’ cries Deputy. ‘Where did yer think ‘Er Royal High­ness is a-goin’ to to-mor­row morn­ing? Blest if she ain’t a-goin’ to the KIN-FREE-DER-EL!’ He great­ly pro­longs the word in his ec­sta­sy, and smites his leg, and dou­bles him­self up in a fit of shrill laugh­ter.

‘How do you know that, Deputy?’

‘Cos she told me so just now. She said she must be hup and hout o’ pur­pose. She ses, “Deputy, I must ’ave a early wash, and make my­self as swell as I can, for I’m a-goin’ to take a turn at the Kin-free-der-el!”’ He sep­a­rates the syl­la­bles with his for­mer zest, and, not find­ing his sense of the lu­di­crous suf­fi­cient­ly re­lieved by stamp­ing about on the pave­ment, breaks into a slow and state­ly dance, per­haps sup­posed to be per­formed by the Dean.

Mr. Datch­ery re­ceives the com­mu­ni­ca­tion with a well-sat­is­fied though pon­der­ing face, and breaks up the con­fer­ence. Re­turn­ing to his quaint lodg­ing, and sit­ting long over the sup­per of bread-and-cheese and salad and ale which Mrs. Tope has left pre­pared for him, he still sits when his sup­per is fin­ished. At length he rises, throws open the door of a cor­ner cup­board, and refers to a few un­couth chalked strokes on its inner side.

‘I like,’ says Mr. Datch­ery, ‘the old tav­ern way of keep­ing scores. Il­leg­i­ble ex­cept to the scor­er. The scor­er not com­mit­ted, the scored deb­it­ed with what is against him. Hum; ha! A very small score this; a very poor score!’

He sighs over the con­tem­pla­tion of its pover­ty, takes a bit of chalk from one of the cup­board shelves, and paus­es with it in his hand, un­cer­tain what ad­di­tion to make to the ac­count.

‘I think a mod­er­ate stroke,’ he con­cludes, ‘is all I am jus­ti­fied in scor­ing up;’ so, suits the ac­tion to the word, clos­es the cup­board, and goes to bed.

A bril­liant morn­ing shines on the old city. Its an­tiq­ui­ties and ruins are sur­pass­ing­ly beau­ti­ful, with a lusty ivy gleam­ing in the sun, and the rich trees wav­ing in the balmy air. Changes of glo­ri­ous light from mov­ing boughs, songs of birds, scents from gar­dens, woods, and fields—or, rather, from the one great gar­den of the whole cul­ti­vat­ed is­land in its yield­ing time—pen­e­trate into the Cathe­dral, sub­due its earthy odour, and preach the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life. The cold stone tombs of cen­turies ago grow warm; and flecks of bright­ness dart into the sternest mar­ble cor­ners of the build­ing, flut­ter­ing there like wings.

Comes Mr. Tope with his large keys, and yawn­ing­ly un­locks and sets open. Come Mrs. Tope and at­ten­dant sweep­ing sprites. Come, in due time, or­gan­ist and bel­lows-boy, peep­ing down from the red cur­tains in the loft, fear­less­ly flap­ping dust from books up at that re­mote el­e­va­tion, and whisk­ing it from stops and ped­als. Come sundry rooks, from var­i­ous quar­ters of the sky, back to the great tower; who may be pre­sumed to enjoy vi­bra­tion, and to know that bell and organ are going to give it them. Come a very small and strag­gling con­gre­ga­tion in­deed: chiefly from Minor Canon Cor­ner and the Precincts. Come Mr. Crisparkle, fresh and bright; and his min­is­ter­ing brethren, not quite so fresh and bright. Come the Choir in a hurry (al­ways in a hurry, and strug­gling into their night­gowns at the last mo­ment, like chil­dren shirk­ing bed), and comes John Jasper lead­ing their line. Last of all comes Mr. Datch­ery into a stall, one of a choice empty col­lec­tion very much at his ser­vice, and glanc­ing about him for Her Royal High­ness the Princess Puffer.

The ser­vice is pret­ty well ad­vanced be­fore Mr. Datch­ery can dis­cern Her Royal High­ness. But by that time he has made her out, in the shade. She is be­hind a pil­lar, care­ful­ly with­drawn from the Choir-mas­ter’s view, but re­gards him with the clos­est at­ten­tion. All un­con­scious of her pres­ence, he chants and sings. She grins when he is most mu­si­cal­ly fer­vid, and—yes, Mr. Datch­ery sees her do it!—shakes her fist at him be­hind the pil­lar’s friend­ly shel­ter.

Mr. Datch­ery looks again, to con­vince him­self. Yes, again! As ugly and with­ered as one of the fan­tas­tic carv­ings on the under brack­ets of the stall seats, as ma­lig­nant as the Evil One, as hard as the big brass eagle hold­ing the sa­cred books upon his wings (and, ac­cord­ing to the sculp­tor’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his fe­ro­cious at­tributes, not at all con­vert­ed by them), she hugs her­self in her lean arms, and then shakes both fists at the lead­er of the Choir.

And at that mo­ment, out­side the grat­ed door of the Choir, hav­ing elud­ed the vig­i­lance of Mr. Tope by shifty re­sources in which he is an adept, Deputy peeps, sharp-eyed, through the bars, and stares as­tound­ed from the threat­en­er to the threat­ened.

The ser­vice comes to an end, and the servi­tors dis­perse to break­fast. Mr. Datch­ery ac­costs his last new ac­quain­tance out­side, when the Choir (as much in a hurry to get their bed­gowns off, as they were but now to get them on) have scuf­fled away.

‘Well, mis­tress. Good morn­ing. You have seen him?’

‘I’ve seen him, deary; I’ve seen him!’

‘And you know him?’

‘Know him! Bet­ter far than all the Rev­erend Par­sons put to­geth­er know him.’

Mrs. Tope’s care has spread a very neat, clean break­fast ready for her lodger. Be­fore sit­ting down to it, he opens his cor­ner-cup­board door; takes his bit of chalk from its shelf; adds one thick line to the score, ex­tend­ing from the top of the cup­board door to the bot­tom; and then falls to with an ap­petite.