The Mystery of Edwin Drood - 1



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.


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.


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.


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!’


‘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.


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?’



‘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.


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:

Reverential Wife of
Whose Knowledge of the World,
Though somewhat extensive,
Never brought him acquainted with
More capable of
And ask thyself the Question,
If Not,

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.


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!
Widdy widdy wy!
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!

‘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?’


‘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!’


‘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.


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.


‘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.’


‘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.’


‘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!