The Mystery of Edwin Drood - 4


Again Miss Twinkleton has delivered her valedictory address, with the accompaniments of white-wine and pound-cake, and again the young ladies have departed to their several homes.  Helena Landless has left the Nuns’ House to attend her brother’s fortunes, and pretty Rosa is alone.

Cloisterham is so bright and sunny in these summer days, that the Cathedral and the monastery-ruin show as if their strong walls were transparent.  A soft glow seems to shine from within them, rather than upon them from without, such is their mellowness as they look forth on the hot corn-fields and the smoking roads that distantly wind among them.  The Cloisterham gardens blush with ripening fruit.  Time was when travel-stained pilgrims rode in clattering parties through the city’s welcome shades; time is when wayfarers, leading a gipsy life between haymaking time and harvest, and looking as if they were just made of the dust of the earth, so very dusty are they, lounge about on cool door-steps, trying to mend their unmendable shoes, or giving them to the city kennels as a hopeless job, and seeking others in the bundles that they carry, along with their yet unused sickles swathed in bands of straw.  At all the more public pumps there is much cooling of bare feet, together with much bubbling and gurgling of drinking with hand to spout on the part of these Bedouins; the Cloisterham police meanwhile looking askant from their beats with suspicion, and manifest impatience that the intruders should depart from within the civic bounds, and once more fry themselves on the simmering high-roads.

On the afternoon of such a day, when the last Cathedral service is done, and when that side of the High Street on which the Nuns’ House stands is in grateful shade, save where its quaint old garden opens to the west between the boughs of trees, a servant informs Rosa, to her terror, that Mr. Jasper desires to see her.

If he had chosen his time for finding her at a disadvantage, he could have done no better.  Perhaps he has chosen it.  Helena Landless is gone, Mrs. Tisher is absent on leave, Miss Twinkleton (in her amateur state of existence) has contributed herself and a veal pie to a picnic.

‘O why, why, why, did you say I was at home!’ cried Rosa, helplessly.

The maid replies, that Mr. Jasper never asked the question.

That he said he knew she was at home, and begged she might be told that he asked to see her.

‘What shall I do! what shall I do!’ thinks Rosa, clasping her hands.

Possessed by a kind of desperation, she adds in the next breath, that she will come to Mr. Jasper in the garden.  She shudders at the thought of being shut up with him in the house; but many of its windows command the garden, and she can be seen as well as heard there, and can shriek in the free air and run away.  Such is the wild idea that flutters through her mind.

She has never seen him since the fatal night, except when she was questioned before the Mayor, and then he was present in gloomy watchfulness, as representing his lost nephew and burning to avenge him.  She hangs her garden-hat on her arm, and goes out.  The moment she sees him from the porch, leaning on the sun-dial, the old horrible feeling of being compelled by him, asserts its hold upon her.  She feels that she would even then go back, but that he draws her feet towards him.  She cannot resist, and sits down, with her head bent, on the garden-seat beside the sun-dial.  She cannot look up at him for abhorrence, but she has perceived that he is dressed in deep mourning.  So is she.  It was not so at first; but the lost has long been given up, and mourned for, as dead.

He would begin by touching her hand.  She feels the intention, and draws her hand back.  His eyes are then fixed upon her, she knows, though her own see nothing but the grass.

‘I have been waiting,’ he begins, ‘for some time, to be summoned back to my duty near you.’

After several times forming her lips, which she knows he is closely watching, into the shape of some other hesitating reply, and then into none, she answers: ‘Duty, sir?’

‘The duty of teaching you, serving you as your faithful music-master.’

‘I have left off that study.’

‘Not left off, I think.  Discontinued.  I was told by your guardian that you discontinued it under the shock that we have all felt so acutely.  When will you resume?’

‘Never, sir.’

‘Never?  You could have done no more if you had loved my dear boy.’

‘I did love him!’ cried Rosa, with a flash of anger.

‘Yes; but not quite—not quite in the right way, shall I say?  Not in the intended and expected way.  Much as my dear boy was, unhappily, too self-conscious and self-satisfied (I’ll draw no parallel between him and you in that respect) to love as he should have loved, or as any one in his place would have loved—must have loved!’

She sits in the same still attitude, but shrinking a little more.

‘Then, to be told that you discontinued your study with me, was to be politely told that you abandoned it altogether?’ he suggested.

‘Yes,’ says Rosa, with sudden spirit, ‘The politeness was my guardian’s, not mine.  I told him that I was resolved to leave off, and that I was determined to stand by my resolution.’

‘And you still are?’

‘I still am, sir.  And I beg not to be questioned any more about it.  At all events, I will not answer any more; I have that in my power.’

She is so conscious of his looking at her with a gloating admiration of the touch of anger on her, and the fire and animation it brings with it, that even as her spirit rises, it falls again, and she struggles with a sense of shame, affront, and fear, much as she did that night at the piano.

‘I will not question you any more, since you object to it so much; I will confess—’

‘I do not wish to hear you, sir,’ cries Rosa, rising.

This time he does touch her with his outstretched hand.  In shrinking from it, she shrinks into her seat again.

‘We must sometimes act in opposition to our wishes,’ he tells her in a low voice.  ‘You must do so now, or do more harm to others than you can ever set right.’

‘What harm?’

‘Presently, presently.  You question me, you see, and surely that’s not fair when you forbid me to question you.  Nevertheless, I will answer the question presently.  Dearest Rosa! Charming Rosa!’

She starts up again.

This time he does not touch her.  But his face looks so wicked and menacing, as he stands leaning against the sun-dial-setting, as it were, his black mark upon the very face of day—that her flight is arrested by horror as she looks at him.

‘I do not forget how many windows command a view of us,’ he says, glancing towards them.  ‘I will not touch you again; I will come no nearer to you than I am.  Sit down, and there will be no mighty wonder in your music-master’s leaning idly against a pedestal and speaking with you, remembering all that has happened, and our shares in it.  Sit down, my beloved.’

She would have gone once more—was all but gone—and once more his face, darkly threatening what would follow if she went, has stopped her.  Looking at him with the expression of the instant frozen on her face, she sits down on the seat again.

‘Rosa, even when my dear boy was affianced to you, I loved you madly; even when I thought his happiness in having you for his wife was certain, I loved you madly; even when I strove to make him more ardently devoted to you, I loved you madly; even when he gave me the picture of your lovely face so carelessly traduced by him, which I feigned to hang always in my sight for his sake, but worshipped in torment for years, I loved you madly; in the distasteful work of the day, in the wakeful misery of the night, girded by sordid realities, or wandering through Paradises and Hells of visions into which I rushed, carrying your image in my arms, I loved you madly.’

If anything could make his words more hideous to her than they are in themselves, it would be the contrast between the violence of his look and delivery, and the composure of his assumed attitude.

‘I endured it all in silence.  So long as you were his, or so long as I supposed you to be his, I hid my secret loyally.  Did I not?’

This lie, so gross, while the mere words in which it is told are so true, is more than Rosa can endure.  She answers with kindling indignation: ‘You were as false throughout, sir, as you are now.  You were false to him, daily and hourly.  You know that you made my life unhappy by your pursuit of me.  You know that you made me afraid to open his generous eyes, and that you forced me, for his own trusting, good, good sake, to keep the truth from him, that you were a bad, bad man!’

His preservation of his easy attitude rendering his working features and his convulsive hands absolutely diabolical, he returns, with a fierce extreme of admiration:

‘How beautiful you are!  You are more beautiful in anger than in repose.  I don’t ask you for your love; give me yourself and your hatred; give me yourself and that pretty rage; give me yourself and that enchanting scorn; it will be enough for me.’

Impatient tears rise to the eyes of the trembling little beauty, and her face flames; but as she again rises to leave him in indignation, and seek protection within the house, he stretches out his hand towards the porch, as though he invited her to enter it.

‘I told you, you rare charmer, you sweet witch, that you must stay and hear me, or do more harm than can ever be undone.  You asked me what harm.  Stay, and I will tell you.  Go, and I will do it!’

Again Rosa quails before his threatening face, though innocent of its meaning, and she remains.  Her panting breathing comes and goes as if it would choke her; but with a repressive hand upon her bosom, she remains.

‘I have made my confession that my love is mad.  It is so mad, that had the ties between me and my dear lost boy been one silken thread less strong, I might have swept even him from your side, when you favoured him.’

A film comes over the eyes she raises for an instant, as though he had turned her faint.

‘Even him,’ he repeats.  ‘Yes, even him!  Rosa, you see me and you hear me.  Judge for yourself whether any other admirer shall love you and live, whose life is in my hand.’

‘What do you mean, sir?’

‘I mean to show you how mad my love is.  It was hawked through the late inquiries by Mr. Crisparkle, that young Landless had confessed to him that he was a rival of my lost boy.  That is an inexpiable offence in my eyes.  The same Mr. Crisparkle knows under my hand that I have devoted myself to the murderer’s discovery and destruction, be he whom he might, and that I determined to discuss the mystery with no one until I should hold the clue in which to entangle the murderer as in a net.  I have since worked patiently to wind and wind it round him; and it is slowly winding as I speak.’

‘Your belief, if you believe in the criminality of Mr. Landless, is not Mr. Crisparkle’s belief, and he is a good man,’ Rosa retorts.

‘My belief is my own; and I reserve it, worshipped of my soul!  Circumstances may accumulate so strongly even against an innocent man, that directed, sharpened, and pointed, they may slay him.  One wanting link discovered by perseverance against a guilty man, proves his guilt, however slight its evidence before, and he dies.  Young Landless stands in deadly peril either way.’

‘If you really suppose,’ Rosa pleads with him, turning paler, ‘that I favour Mr. Landless, or that Mr. Landless has ever in any way addressed himself to me, you are wrong.’

He puts that from him with a slighting action of his hand and a curled lip.

‘I was going to show you how madly I love you.  More madly now than ever, for I am willing to renounce the second object that has arisen in my life to divide it with you; and henceforth to have no object in existence but you only.  Miss Landless has become your bosom friend.  You care for her peace of mind?’

‘I love her dearly.’

‘You care for her good name?’

‘I have said, sir, I love her dearly.’

‘I am unconsciously,’ he observes with a smile, as he folds his hands upon the sun-dial and leans his chin upon them, so that his talk would seem from the windows (faces occasionally come and go there) to be of the airiest and playfullest—‘I am unconsciously giving offence by questioning again.  I will simply make statements, therefore, and not put questions.  You do care for your bosom friend’s good name, and you do care for her peace of mind.  Then remove the shadow of the gallows from her, dear one!’

‘You dare propose to me to—’

‘Darling, I dare propose to you.  Stop there.  If it be bad to idolise you, I am the worst of men; if it be good, I am the best.  My love for you is above all other love, and my truth to you is above all other truth.  Let me have hope and favour, and I am a forsworn man for your sake.’

Rosa puts her hands to her temples, and, pushing back her hair, looks wildly and abhorrently at him, as though she were trying to piece together what it is his deep purpose to present to her only in fragments.

‘Reckon up nothing at this moment, angel, but the sacrifices that I lay at those dear feet, which I could fall down among the vilest ashes and kiss, and put upon my head as a poor savage might.  There is my fidelity to my dear boy after death.  Tread upon it!’

With an action of his hands, as though he cast down something precious.

‘There is the inexpiable offence against my adoration of you.  Spurn it!’

With a similar action.

‘There are my labours in the cause of a just vengeance for six toiling months.  Crush them!’

With another repetition of the action.

‘There is my past and my present wasted life.  There is the desolation of my heart and my soul.  There is my peace; there is my despair.  Stamp them into the dust; so that you take me, were it even mortally hating me!’

The frightful vehemence of the man, now reaching its full height, so additionally terrifies her as to break the spell that has held her to the spot.  She swiftly moves towards the porch; but in an instant he is at her side, and speaking in her ear.

‘Rosa, I am self-repressed again.  I am walking calmly beside you to the house.  I shall wait for some encouragement and hope.  I shall not strike too soon.  Give me a sign that you attend to me.’

She slightly and constrainedly moves her hand.

‘Not a word of this to any one, or it will bring down the blow, as certainly as night follows day.  Another sign that you attend to me.’

She moves her hand once more.

‘I love you, love you, love you!  If you were to cast me off now—but you will not—you would never be rid of me.  No one should come between us.  I would pursue you to the death.’

The handmaid coming out to open the gate for him, he quietly pulls off his hat as a parting salute, and goes away with no greater show of agitation than is visible in the effigy of Mr. Sapsea’s father opposite.  Rosa faints in going up-stairs, and is carefully carried to her room and laid down on her bed.  A thunderstorm is coming on, the maids say, and the hot and stifling air has overset the pretty dear: no wonder; they have felt their own knees all of a tremble all day long.


Rosa no sooner came to herself than the whole of the late interview was before her.  It even seemed as if it had pursued her into her insensibility, and she had not had a moment’s unconsciousness of it.  What to do, she was at a frightened loss to know: the only one clear thought in her mind was, that she must fly from this terrible man.

But where could she take refuge, and how could she go?  She had never breathed her dread of him to any one but Helena.  If she went to Helena, and told her what had passed, that very act might bring down the irreparable mischief that he threatened he had the power, and that she knew he had the will, to do.  The more fearful he appeared to her excited memory and imagination, the more alarming her responsibility appeared; seeing that a slight mistake on her part, either in action or delay, might let his malevolence loose on Helena’s brother.

Rosa’s mind throughout the last six months had been stormily confused.  A half-formed, wholly unexpressed suspicion tossed in it, now heaving itself up, and now sinking into the deep; now gaining palpability, and now losing it.  Jasper’s self-absorption in his nephew when he was alive, and his unceasing pursuit of the inquiry how he came by his death, if he were dead, were themes so rife in the place, that no one appeared able to suspect the possibility of foul play at his hands.  She had asked herself the question, ‘Am I so wicked in my thoughts as to conceive a wickedness that others cannot imagine?’  Then she had considered, Did the suspicion come of her previous recoiling from him before the fact?  And if so, was not that a proof of its baselessness?  Then she had reflected, ‘What motive could he have, according to my accusation?’  She was ashamed to answer in her mind, ‘The motive of gaining me!’  And covered her face, as if the lightest shadow of the idea of founding murder on such an idle vanity were a crime almost as great.

She ran over in her mind again, all that he had said by the sun-dial in the garden.  He had persisted in treating the disappearance as murder, consistently with his whole public course since the finding of the watch and shirt-pin.  If he were afraid of the crime being traced out, would he not rather encourage the idea of a voluntary disappearance?  He had even declared that if the ties between him and his nephew had been less strong, he might have swept ‘even him’ away from her side.  Was that like his having really done so?  He had spoken of laying his six months’ labours in the cause of a just vengeance at her feet.  Would he have done that, with that violence of passion, if they were a pretence?  Would he have ranged them with his desolate heart and soul, his wasted life, his peace and his despair?  The very first sacrifice that he represented himself as making for her, was his fidelity to his dear boy after death.  Surely these facts were strong against a fancy that scarcely dared to hint itself.  And yet he was so terrible a man!  In short, the poor girl (for what could she know of the criminal intellect, which its own professed students perpetually misread, because they persist in trying to reconcile it with the average intellect of average men, instead of identifying it as a horrible wonder apart) could get by no road to any other conclusion than that he was a terrible man, and must be fled from.

She had been Helena’s stay and comfort during the whole time.  She had constantly assured her of her full belief in her brother’s innocence, and of her sympathy with him in his misery.  But she had never seen him since the disappearance, nor had Helena ever spoken one word of his avowal to Mr. Crisparkle in regard of Rosa, though as a part of the interest of the case it was well known far and wide.  He was Helena’s unfortunate brother, to her, and nothing more.  The assurance she had given her odious suitor was strictly true, though it would have been better (she considered now) if she could have restrained herself from so giving it.  Afraid of him as the bright and delicate little creature was, her spirit swelled at the thought of his knowing it from her own lips.

But where was she to go?  Anywhere beyond his reach, was no reply to the question.  Somewhere must be thought of.  She determined to go to her guardian, and to go immediately.  The feeling she had imparted to Helena on the night of their first confidence, was so strong upon her—the feeling of not being safe from him, and of the solid walls of the old convent being powerless to keep out his ghostly following of her—that no reasoning of her own could calm her terrors.  The fascination of repulsion had been upon her so long, and now culminated so darkly, that she felt as if he had power to bind her by a spell.  Glancing out at window, even now, as she rose to dress, the sight of the sun-dial on which he had leaned when he declared himself, turned her cold, and made her shrink from it, as though he had invested it with some awful quality from his own nature.

She wrote a hurried note to Miss Twinkleton, saying that she had sudden reason for wishing to see her guardian promptly, and had gone to him; also, entreating the good lady not to be uneasy, for all was well with her.  She hurried a few quite useless articles into a very little bag, left the note in a conspicuous place, and went out, softly closing the gate after her.

It was the first time she had ever been even in Cloisterham High Street alone.  But knowing all its ways and windings very well, she hurried straight to the corner from which the omnibus departed.  It was, at that very moment, going off.

‘Stop and take me, if you please, Joe.  I am obliged to go to London.’

In less than another minute she was on her road to the railway, under Joe’s protection. Joe waited on her when she got there, put her safely into the railway carriage, and handed in the very little bag after her, as though it were some enormous trunk, hundredweights heavy, which she must on no account endeavour to lift.

‘Can you go round when you get back, and tell Miss Twinkleton that you saw me safely off, Joe?’

‘It shall be done, Miss.’

‘With my love, please, Joe.’

‘Yes, Miss—and I wouldn’t mind having it myself!’  But Joe did not articulate the last clause; only thought it.

Now that she was whirling away for London in real earnest, Rosa was at leisure to resume the thoughts which her personal hurry had checked.  The indignant thought that his declaration of love soiled her; that she could only be cleansed from the stain of its impurity by appealing to the honest and true; supported her for a time against her fears, and confirmed her in her hasty resolution.  But as the evening grew darker and darker, and the great city impended nearer and nearer, the doubts usual in such cases began to arise.  Whether this was not a wild proceeding, after all; how Mr. Grewgious might regard it; whether she should find him at the journey’s end; how she would act if he were absent; what might become of her, alone, in a place so strange and crowded; how if she had but waited and taken counsel first; whether, if she could now go back, she would not do it thankfully; a multitude of such uneasy speculations disturbed her, more and more as they accumulated.  At length the train came into London over the housetops; and down below lay the gritty streets with their yet un-needed lamps a-glow, on a hot, light, summer night.

‘Hiram Grewgious, Esquire, Staple Inn, London.’  This was all Rosa knew of her destination; but it was enough to send her rattling away again in a cab, through deserts of gritty streets, where many people crowded at the corner of courts and byways to get some air, and where many other people walked with a miserably monotonous noise of shuffling of feet on hot paving-stones, and where all the people and all their surroundings were so gritty and so shabby!

There was music playing here and there, but it did not enliven the case.  No barrel-organ mended the matter, and no big drum beat dull care away.  Like the chapel bells that were also going here and there, they only seemed to evoke echoes from brick surfaces, and dust from everything.  As to the flat wind-instruments, they seemed to have cracked their hearts and souls in pining for the country.

Her jingling conveyance stopped at last at a fast-closed gateway, which appeared to belong to somebody who had gone to bed very early, and was much afraid of housebreakers; Rosa, discharging her conveyance, timidly knocked at this gateway, and was let in, very little bag and all, by a watchman.

‘Does Mr. Grewgious live here?’

‘Mr. Grewgious lives there, Miss,’ said the watchman, pointing further in.

So Rosa went further in, and, when the clocks were striking ten, stood on P. J. T.’s doorsteps, wondering what P. J. T. had done with his street-door.

Guided by the painted name of Mr. Grewgious, she went up-stairs and softly tapped and tapped several times.  But no one answering, and Mr. Grewgious’s door-handle yielding to her touch, she went in, and saw her guardian sitting on a window-seat at an open window, with a shaded lamp placed far from him on a table in a corner.

Rosa drew nearer to him in the twilight of the room.  He saw her, and he said, in an undertone: ‘Good Heaven!’

Rosa fell upon his neck, with tears, and then he said, returning her embrace:

‘My child, my child!  I thought you were your mother!—But what, what, what,’ he added, soothingly, ‘has happened?  My dear, what has brought you here?  Who has brought you here?’

‘No one.  I came alone.’

‘Lord bless me!’ ejaculated Mr. Grewgious.  ‘Came alone!  Why didn’t you write to me to come and fetch you?’

‘I had no time.  I took a sudden resolution.  Poor, poor Eddy!’

‘Ah, poor fellow, poor fellow!’

‘His uncle has made love to me.  I cannot bear it,’ said Rosa, at once with a burst of tears, and a stamp of her little foot; ‘I shudder with horror of him, and I have come to you to protect me and all of us from him, if you will?’

‘I will,’ cried Mr. Grewgious, with a sudden rush of amazing energy.  ‘Damn him!

“Confound his politics!
Frustrate his knavish tricks!
On Thee his hopes to fix?
      Damn him again!”’

After this most extraordinary outburst, Mr. Grewgious, quite beside himself, plunged about the room, to all appearance undecided whether he was in a fit of loyal enthusiasm, or combative denunciation.

He stopped and said, wiping his face: ‘I beg your pardon, my dear, but you will be glad to know I feel better.  Tell me no more just now, or I might do it again.  You must be refreshed and cheered.  What did you take last?  Was it breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, or supper?  And what will you take next?  Shall it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, or supper?’

The respectful tenderness with which, on one knee before her, he helped her to remove her hat, and disentangle her pretty hair from it, was quite a chivalrous sight.  Yet who, knowing him only on the surface, would have expected chivalry—and of the true sort, too; not the spurious—from Mr. Grewgious?

‘Your rest too must be provided for,’ he went on; ‘and you shall have the prettiest chamber in Furnival’s.  Your toilet must be provided for, and you shall have everything that an unlimited head chambermaid—by which expression I mean a head chambermaid not limited as to outlay—can procure.  Is that a bag?’ he looked hard at it; sooth to say, it required hard looking at to be seen at all in a dimly lighted room: ‘and is it your property, my dear?’

‘Yes, sir.  I brought it with me.’

‘It is not an extensive bag,’ said Mr. Grewgious, candidly, ‘though admirably calculated to contain a day’s provision for a canary-bird.  Perhaps you brought a canary-bird?’

Rosa smiled and shook her head.

‘If you had, he should have been made welcome,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘and I think he would have been pleased to be hung upon a nail outside and pit himself against our Staple sparrows; whose execution must be admitted to be not quite equal to their intention.  Which is the case with so many of us!  You didn’t say what meal, my dear.  Have a nice jumble of all meals.’

Rosa thanked him, but said she could only take a cup of tea.  Mr. Grewgious, after several times running out, and in again, to mention such supplementary items as marmalade, eggs, watercresses, salted fish, and frizzled ham, ran across to Furnival’s without his hat, to give his various directions.  And soon afterwards they were realised in practice, and the board was spread.

‘Lord bless my soul,’ cried Mr. Grewgious, putting the lamp upon it, and taking his seat opposite Rosa; ‘what a new sensation for a poor old Angular bachelor, to be sure!’

Rosa’s expressive little eyebrows asked him what he meant?

‘The sensation of having a sweet young presence in the place, that whitewashes it, paints it, papers it, decorates it with gilding, and makes it Glorious!’ said Mr. Grewgious.  ‘Ah me!  Ah me!’

As there was something mournful in his sigh, Rosa, in touching him with her tea-cup, ventured to touch him with her small hand too.

‘Thank you, my dear,’ said Mr. Grewgious.  ‘Ahem!  Let’s talk!’

‘Do you always live here, sir?’ asked Rosa.

‘Yes, my dear.’

‘And always alone?’

‘Always alone; except that I have daily company in a gentleman by the name of Bazzard, my clerk.’

He doesn’t live here?’

‘No, he goes his way, after office hours.  In fact, he is off duty here, altogether, just at present; and a firm down-stairs, with which I have business relations, lend me a substitute.  But it would be extremely difficult to replace Mr. Bazzard.’

‘He must be very fond of you,’ said Rosa.

‘He bears up against it with commendable fortitude if he is,’ returned Mr. Grewgious, after considering the matter.  ‘But I doubt if he is.  Not particularly so.  You see, he is discontented, poor fellow.’

‘Why isn’t he contented?’ was the natural inquiry.

‘Misplaced,’ said Mr. Grewgious, with great mystery.

Rosa’s eyebrows resumed their inquisitive and perplexed expression.

‘So misplaced,’ Mr. Grewgious went on, ‘that I feel constantly apologetic towards him.  And he feels (though he doesn’t mention it) that I have reason to be.’

Mr. Grewgious had by this time grown so very mysterious, that Rosa did not know how to go on.  While she was thinking about it Mr. Grewgious suddenly jerked out of himself for the second time:

‘Let’s talk.  We were speaking of Mr. Bazzard.  It’s a secret, and moreover it is Mr. Bazzard’s secret; but the sweet presence at my table makes me so unusually expansive, that I feel I must impart it in inviolable confidence.  What do you think Mr. Bazzard has done?’

‘O dear!’ cried Rosa, drawing her chair a little nearer, and her mind reverting to Jasper, ‘nothing dreadful, I hope?’

‘He has written a play,’ said Mr. Grewgious, in a solemn whisper.  ‘A tragedy.’

Rosa seemed much relieved.

‘And nobody,’ pursued Mr. Grewgious in the same tone, ‘will hear, on any account whatever, of bringing it out.’

Rosa looked reflective, and nodded her head slowly; as who should say, ‘Such things are, and why are they!’

‘Now, you know,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘I couldn’t write a play.’

‘Not a bad one, sir?’ said Rosa, innocently, with her eyebrows again in action.

‘No.  If I was under sentence of decapitation, and was about to be instantly decapitated, and an express arrived with a pardon for the condemned convict Grewgious if he wrote a play, I should be under the necessity of resuming the block, and begging the executioner to proceed to extremities,—meaning,’ said Mr. Grewgious, passing his hand under his chin, ‘the singular number, and this extremity.’

Rosa appeared to consider what she would do if the awkward supposititious case were hers.

‘Consequently,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘Mr. Bazzard would have a sense of my inferiority to himself under any circumstances; but when I am his master, you know, the case is greatly aggravated.’

Mr. Grewgious shook his head seriously, as if he felt the offence to be a little too much, though of his own committing.

‘How came you to be his master, sir?’ asked Rosa.

‘A question that naturally follows,’ said Mr. Grewgious.  ‘Let’s talk.  Mr. Bazzard’s father, being a Norfolk farmer, would have furiously laid about him with a flail, a pitch-fork, and every agricultural implement available for assaulting purposes, on the slightest hint of his son’s having written a play.  So the son, bringing to me the father’s rent (which I receive), imparted his secret, and pointed out that he was determined to pursue his genius, and that it would put him in peril of starvation, and that he was not formed for it.’

‘For pursuing his genius, sir?’

‘No, my dear,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘for starvation.  It was impossible to deny the position, that Mr. Bazzard was not formed to be starved, and Mr. Bazzard then pointed out that it was desirable that I should stand between him and a fate so perfectly unsuited to his formation.  In that way Mr. Bazzard became my clerk, and he feels it very much.’

‘I am glad he is grateful,’ said Rosa.

‘I didn’t quite mean that, my dear.  I mean, that he feels the degradation.  There are some other geniuses that Mr. Bazzard has become acquainted with, who have also written tragedies, which likewise nobody will on any account whatever hear of bringing out, and these choice spirits dedicate their plays to one another in a highly panegyrical manner.  Mr. Bazzard has been the subject of one of these dedications.  Now, you know, I never had a play dedicated to me!’

Rosa looked at him as if she would have liked him to be the recipient of a thousand dedications.

‘Which again, naturally, rubs against the grain of Mr. Bazzard,’ said Mr. Grewgious.  ‘He is very short with me sometimes, and then I feel that he is meditating, “This blockhead is my master!  A fellow who couldn’t write a tragedy on pain of death, and who will never have one dedicated to him with the most complimentary congratulations on the high position he has taken in the eyes of posterity!”  Very trying, very trying.  However, in giving him directions, I reflect beforehand: “Perhaps he may not like this,” or “He might take it ill if I asked that;” and so we get on very well.  Indeed, better than I could have expected.’

‘Is the tragedy named, sir?’ asked Rosa.

‘Strictly between ourselves,’ answered Mr. Grewgious, ‘it has a dreadfully appropriate name.  It is called The Thorn of Anxiety.  But Mr. Bazzard hopes—and I hope—that it will come out at last.’

It was not hard to divine that Mr. Grewgious had related the Bazzard history thus fully, at least quite as much for the recreation of his ward’s mind from the subject that had driven her there, as for the gratification of his own tendency to be social and communicative.

‘And now, my dear,’ he said at this point, ‘if you are not too tired to tell me more of what passed to-day—but only if you feel quite able—I should be glad to hear it.  I may digest it the better, if I sleep on it to-night.’

Rosa, composed now, gave him a faithful account of the interview.  Mr. Grewgious often smoothed his head while it was in progress, and begged to be told a second time those parts which bore on Helena and Neville.  When Rosa had finished, he sat grave, silent, and meditative for a while.

‘Clearly narrated,’ was his only remark at last, ‘and, I hope, clearly put away here,’ smoothing his head again.  ‘See, my dear,’ taking her to the open window, ‘where they live!  The dark windows over yonder.’

‘I may go to Helena to-morrow?’ asked Rosa.

‘I should like to sleep on that question to-night,’ he answered doubtfully.  ‘But let me take you to your own rest, for you must need it.’

With that Mr. Grewgious helped her to get her hat on again, and hung upon his arm the very little bag that was of no earthly use, and led her by the hand (with a certain stately awkwardness, as if he were going to walk a minuet) across Holborn, and into Furnival’s Inn.  At the hotel door, he confided her to the Unlimited head chambermaid, and said that while she went up to see her room, he would remain below, in case she should wish it exchanged for another, or should find that there was anything she wanted.

Rosa’s room was airy, clean, comfortable, almost gay.  The Unlimited had laid in everything omitted from the very little bag (that is to say, everything she could possibly need), and Rosa tripped down the great many stairs again, to thank her guardian for his thoughtful and affectionate care of her.

‘Not at all, my dear,’ said Mr. Grewgious, infinitely gratified; ‘it is I who thank you for your charming confidence and for your charming company.  Your breakfast will be provided for you in a neat, compact, and graceful little sitting-room (appropriate to your figure), and I will come to you at ten o’clock in the morning.  I hope you don’t feel very strange indeed, in this strange place.’

‘O no, I feel so safe!’

‘Yes, you may be sure that the stairs are fire-proof,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘and that any outbreak of the devouring element would be perceived and suppressed by the watchmen.’

‘I did not mean that,’ Rosa replied.  ‘I mean, I feel so safe from him.’

‘There is a stout gate of iron bars to keep him out,’ said Mr. Grewgious, smiling; ‘and Furnival’s is fire-proof, and specially watched and lighted, and I live over the way!’  In the stoutness of his knight-errantry, he seemed to think the last-named protection all sufficient.  In the same spirit he said to the gate-porter as he went out, ‘If some one staying in the hotel should wish to send across the road to me in the night, a crown will be ready for the messenger.’  In the same spirit, he walked up and down outside the iron gate for the best part of an hour, with some solicitude; occasionally looking in between the bars, as if he had laid a dove in a high roost in a cage of lions, and had it on his mind that she might tumble out.


Nothing occurred in the night to flutter the tired dove; and the dove arose refreshed.  With Mr. Grewgious, when the clock struck ten in the morning, came Mr. Crisparkle, who had come at one plunge out of the river at Cloisterham.

‘Miss Twinkleton was so uneasy, Miss Rosa,’ he explained to her, ‘and came round to Ma and me with your note, in such a state of wonder, that, to quiet her, I volunteered on this service by the very first train to be caught in the morning.  I wished at the time that you had come to me; but now I think it best that you did as you did, and came to your guardian.’

‘I did think of you,’ Rosa told him; ‘but Minor Canon Corner was so near him—’

‘I understand.  It was quite natural.’

‘I have told Mr. Crisparkle,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘all that you told me last night, my dear.  Of course I should have written it to him immediately; but his coming was most opportune.  And it was particularly kind of him to come, for he had but just gone.’

‘Have you settled,’ asked Rosa, appealing to them both, ‘what is to be done for Helena and her brother?’

‘Why really,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘I am in great perplexity.  If even Mr. Grewgious, whose head is much longer than mine, and who is a whole night’s cogitation in advance of me, is undecided, what must I be!’

The Unlimited here put her head in at the door—after having rapped, and been authorised to present herself—announcing that a gentleman wished for a word with another gentleman named Crisparkle, if any such gentleman were there.  If no such gentleman were there, he begged pardon for being mistaken.

‘Such a gentleman is here,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘but is engaged just now.’

‘Is it a dark gentleman?’ interposed Rosa, retreating on her guardian.

‘No, Miss, more of a brown gentleman.’

‘You are sure not with black hair?’ asked Rosa, taking courage.

‘Quite sure of that, Miss.  Brown hair and blue eyes.’

‘Perhaps,’ hinted Mr. Grewgious, with habitual caution, ‘it might be well to see him, reverend sir, if you don’t object.  When one is in a difficulty or at a loss, one never knows in what direction a way out may chance to open.  It is a business principle of mine, in such a case, not to close up any direction, but to keep an eye on every direction that may present itself.  I could relate an anecdote in point, but that it would be premature.’

‘If Miss Rosa will allow me, then?  Let the gentleman come in,’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

The gentleman came in; apologised, with a frank but modest grace, for not finding Mr. Crisparkle alone; turned to Mr. Crisparkle, and smilingly asked the unexpected question: ‘Who am I?’

‘You are the gentleman I saw smoking under the trees in Staple Inn, a few minutes ago.’

‘True.  There I saw you.  Who else am I?’

Mr. Crisparkle concentrated his attention on a handsome face, much sunburnt; and the ghost of some departed boy seemed to rise, gradually and dimly, in the room.

The gentleman saw a struggling recollection lighten up the Minor Canon’s features, and smiling again, said: ‘What will you have for breakfast this morning?  You are out of jam.’

‘Wait a moment!’ cried Mr. Crisparkle, raising his right hand.  ‘Give me another instant!  Tartar!’

The two shook hands with the greatest heartiness, and then went the wonderful length—for Englishmen—of laying their hands each on the other’s shoulders, and looking joyfully each into the other’s face.

‘My old fag!’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

‘My old master!’ said Mr. Tartar.

‘You saved me from drowning!’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

‘After which you took to swimming, you know!’ said Mr. Tartar.

‘God bless my soul!’ said Mr. Crisparkle.

‘Amen!’ said Mr. Tartar.

And then they fell to shaking hands most heartily again.

‘Imagine,’ exclaimed Mr. Crisparkle, with glistening eyes: ‘Miss Rosa Bud and Mr. Grewgious, imagine Mr. Tartar, when he was the smallest of juniors, diving for me, catching me, a big heavy senior, by the hair of the head, and striking out for the shore with me like a water-giant!’

‘Imagine my not letting him sink, as I was his fag!’ said Mr. Tartar.  ‘But the truth being that he was my best protector and friend, and did me more good than all the masters put together, an irrational impulse seized me to pick him up, or go down with him.’

‘Hem!  Permit me, sir, to have the honour,’ said Mr. Grewgious, advancing with extended hand, ‘for an honour I truly esteem it.  I am proud to make your acquaintance.  I hope you didn’t take cold.  I hope you were not inconvenienced by swallowing too much water.  How have you been since?’

It was by no means apparent that Mr. Grewgious knew what he said, though it was very apparent that he meant to say something highly friendly and appreciative.

If Heaven, Rosa thought, had but sent such courage and skill to her poor mother’s aid!  And he to have been so slight and young then!

‘I don’t wish to be complimented upon it, I thank you; but I think I have an idea,’ Mr. Grewgious announced, after taking a jog-trot or two across the room, so unexpected and unaccountable that they all stared at him, doubtful whether he was choking or had the cramp—‘I think I have an idea.  I believe I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Tartar’s name as tenant of the top set in the house next the top set in the corner?’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Mr. Tartar.  ‘You are right so far.’

‘I am right so far,’ said Mr. Grewgious.  ‘Tick that off;’ which he did, with his right thumb on his left.  ‘Might you happen to know the name of your neighbour in the top set on the other side of the party-wall?’ coming very close to Mr. Tartar, to lose nothing of his face, in his shortness of sight.


‘Tick that off,’ said Mr. Grewgious, taking another trot, and then coming back.  ‘No personal knowledge, I suppose, sir?’

‘Slight, but some.’

‘Tick that off,’ said Mr. Grewgious, taking another trot, and again coming back.  ‘Nature of knowledge, Mr. Tartar?’

‘I thought he seemed to be a young fellow in a poor way, and I asked his leave—only within a day or so—to share my flowers up there with him; that is to say, to extend my flower-garden to his windows.’

‘Would you have the kindness to take seats?’ said Mr. Grewgious.  ‘I have an idea!’

They complied; Mr. Tartar none the less readily, for being all abroad; and Mr. Grewgious, seated in the centre, with his hands upon his knees, thus stated his idea, with his usual manner of having got the statement by heart.

‘I cannot as yet make up my mind whether it is prudent to hold open communication under present circumstances, and on the part of the fair member of the present company, with Mr. Neville or Miss Helena.  I have reason to know that a local friend of ours (on whom I beg to bestow a passing but a hearty malediction, with the kind permission of my reverend friend) sneaks to and fro, and dodges up and down.  When not doing so himself, he may have some informant skulking about, in the person of a watchman, porter, or such-like hanger-on of Staple.  On the other hand, Miss Rosa very naturally wishes to see her friend Miss Helena, and it would seem important that at least Miss Helena (if not her brother too, through her) should privately know from Miss Rosa’s lips what has occurred, and what has been threatened.  Am I agreed with generally in the views I take?’

‘I entirely coincide with them,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, who had been very attentive.

‘As I have no doubt I should,’ added Mr. Tartar, smiling, ‘if I understood them.’

‘Fair and softly, sir,’ said Mr. Grewgious; ‘we shall fully confide in you directly, if you will favour us with your permission.  Now, if our local friend should have any informant on the spot, it is tolerably clear that such informant can only be set to watch the chambers in the occupation of Mr. Neville.  He reporting, to our local friend, who comes and goes there, our local friend would supply for himself, from his own previous knowledge, the identity of the parties.  Nobody can be set to watch all Staple, or to concern himself with comers and goers to other sets of chambers: unless, indeed, mine.’

‘I begin to understand to what you tend,’ said Mr. Crisparkle, ‘and highly approve of your caution.’

‘I needn’t repeat that I know nothing yet of the why and wherefore,’ said Mr. Tartar; ‘but I also understand to what you tend, so let me say at once that my chambers are freely at your disposal.’

‘There!’ cried Mr. Grewgious, smoothing his head triumphantly, ‘now we have all got the idea.  You have it, my dear?’

‘I think I have,’ said Rosa, blushing a little as Mr. Tartar looked quickly towards her.

‘You see, you go over to Staple with Mr. Crisparkle and Mr. Tartar,’ said Mr. Grewgious; ‘I going in and out, and out and in alone, in my usual way; you go up with those gentlemen to Mr. Tartar’s rooms; you look into Mr. Tartar’s flower-garden; you wait for Miss Helena’s appearance there, or you signify to Miss Helena that you are close by; and you communicate with her freely, and no spy can be the wiser.’

‘I am very much afraid I shall be—’

‘Be what, my dear?’ asked Mr. Grewgious, as she hesitated.  ‘Not frightened?’

‘No, not that,’ said Rosa, shyly; ‘in Mr. Tartar’s way.  We seem to be appropriating Mr. Tartar’s residence so very coolly.’

‘I protest to you,’ returned that gentleman, ‘that I shall think the better of it for evermore, if your voice sounds in it only once.’

Rosa, not quite knowing what to say about that, cast down her eyes, and turning to Mr. Grewgious, dutifully asked if she should put her hat on?  Mr. Grewgious being of opinion that she could not do better, she withdrew for the purpose.  Mr. Crisparkle took the opportunity of giving Mr. Tartar a summary of the distresses of Neville and his sister; the opportunity was quite long enough, as the hat happened to require a little extra fitting on.

Mr. Tartar gave his arm to Rosa, and Mr. Crisparkle walked, detached, in front.

‘Poor, poor Eddy!’ thought Rosa, as they went along.

Mr. Tartar waved his right hand as he bent his head down over Rosa, talking in an animated way.

‘It was not so powerful or so sun-browned when it saved Mr. Crisparkle,’ thought Rosa, glancing at it; ‘but it must have been very steady and determined even then.’

Mr. Tartar told her he had been a sailor, roving everywhere for years and years.

‘When are you going to sea again?’ asked Rosa.


Rosa wondered what the girls would say if they could see her crossing the wide street on the sailor’s arm.  And she fancied that the passers-by must think her very little and very helpless, contrasted with the strong figure that could have caught her up and carried her out of any danger, miles and miles without resting.

She was thinking further, that his far-seeing blue eyes looked as if they had been used to watch danger afar off, and to watch it without flinching, drawing nearer and nearer: when, happening to raise her own eyes, she found that he seemed to be thinking something about them.

This a little confused Rosebud, and may account for her never afterwards quite knowing how she ascended (with his help) to his garden in the air, and seemed to get into a marvellous country that came into sudden bloom like the country on the summit of the magic bean-stalk.  May it flourish for ever!


Mr. Tartar’s chambers were the neatest, the cleanest, and the best-ordered chambers ever seen under the sun, moon, and stars.  The floors were scrubbed to that extent, that you might have supposed the London blacks emancipated for ever, and gone out of the land for good.  Every inch of brass-work in Mr. Tartar’s possession was polished and burnished, till it shone like a brazen mirror.  No speck, nor spot, nor spatter soiled the purity of any of Mr. Tartar’s household gods, large, small, or middle-sized.  His sitting-room was like the admiral’s cabin, his bath-room was like a dairy, his sleeping-chamber, fitted all about with lockers and drawers, was like a seedsman’s shop; and his nicely-balanced cot just stirred in the midst, as if it breathed.  Everything belonging to Mr. Tartar had quarters of its own assigned to it: his maps and charts had their quarters; his books had theirs; his brushes had theirs; his boots had theirs; his clothes had theirs; his case-bottles had theirs; his telescopes and other instruments had theirs.  Everything was readily accessible.  Shelf, bracket, locker, hook, and drawer were equally within reach, and were equally contrived with a view to avoiding waste of room, and providing some snug inches of stowage for something that would have exactly fitted nowhere else.  His gleaming little service of plate was so arranged upon his sideboard as that a slack salt-spoon would have instantly betrayed itself; his toilet implements were so arranged upon his dressing-table as that a toothpick of slovenly deportment could have been reported at a glance.  So with the curiosities he had brought home from various voyages.  Stuffed, dried, repolished, or otherwise preserved, according to their kind; birds, fishes, reptiles, arms, articles of dress, shells, seaweeds, grasses, or memorials of coral reef; each was displayed in its especial place, and each could have been displayed in no better place.  Paint and varnish seemed to be kept somewhere out of sight, in constant readiness to obliterate stray finger-marks wherever any might become perceptible in Mr. Tartar’s chambers.  No man-of-war was ever kept more spick and span from careless touch.  On this bright summer day, a neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tartar’s flower-garden as only a sailor can rig it, and there was a sea-going air upon the whole effect, so delightfully complete, that the flower-garden might have appertained to stern-windows afloat, and the whole concern might have bowled away gallantly with all on board, if Mr. Tartar had only clapped to his lips the speaking-trumpet that was slung in a corner, and given hoarse orders to heave the anchor up, look alive there, men, and get all sail upon her!

Mr. Tartar doing the honours of this gallant craft was of a piece with the rest.  When a man rides an amiable hobby that shies at nothing and kicks nobody, it is only agreeable to find him riding it with a humorous sense of the droll side of the creature.  When the man is a cordial and an earnest man by nature, and withal is perfectly fresh and genuine, it may be doubted whether he is ever seen to greater advantage than at such a time.  So Rosa would have naturally thought (even if she hadn’t been conducted over the ship with all the homage due to the First Lady of the Admiralty, or First Fairy of the Sea), that it was charming to see and hear Mr. Tartar half laughing at, and half rejoicing in, his various contrivances.  So Rosa would have naturally thought, anyhow, that the sunburnt sailor showed to great advantage when, the inspection finished, he delicately withdrew out of his admiral’s cabin, beseeching her to consider herself its Queen, and waving her free of his flower-garden with the hand that had had Mr. Crisparkle’s life in it.

‘Helena!  Helena Landless!  Are you there?’

‘Who speaks to me?  Not Rosa?’  Then a second handsome face appearing.

‘Yes, my darling!’

‘Why, how did you come here, dearest?’

‘I—I don’t quite know,’ said Rosa with a blush; ‘unless I am dreaming!’

Why with a blush?  For their two faces were alone with the other flowers.  Are blushes among the fruits of the country of the magic bean-stalk?

I am not dreaming,’ said Helena, smiling.  ‘I should take more for granted if I were.  How do we come together—or so near together—so very unexpectedly?’

Unexpectedly indeed, among the dingy gables and chimney-pots of P. J. T.’s connection, and the flowers that had sprung from the salt sea.  But Rosa, waking, told in a hurry how they came to be together, and all the why and wherefore of that matter.

‘And Mr. Crisparkle is here,’ said Rosa, in rapid conclusion; ‘and, could you believe it? long ago he saved his life!’

‘I could believe any such thing of Mr. Crisparkle,’ returned Helena, with a mantling face.

(More blushes in the bean-stalk country!)

‘Yes, but it wasn’t Crisparkle,’ said Rosa, quickly putting in the correction.

‘I don’t understand, love.’

‘It was very nice of Mr. Crisparkle to be saved,’ said Rosa, ‘and he couldn’t have shown his high opinion of Mr. Tartar more expressively.  But it was Mr. Tartar who saved him.’

Helena’s dark eyes looked very earnestly at the bright face among the leaves, and she asked, in a slower and more thoughtful tone:

‘Is Mr. Tartar with you now, dear?’

‘No; because he has given up his rooms to me—to us, I mean.  It is such a beautiful place!’

‘Is it?’

‘It is like the inside of the most exquisite ship that ever sailed.  It is like—it is like—’

‘Like a dream?’ suggested Helena.

Rosa answered with a little nod, and smelled the flowers.

Helena resumed, after a short pause of silence, during which she seemed (or it was Rosa’s fancy) to compassionate somebody: ‘My poor Neville is reading in his own room, the sun being so very bright on this side just now.  I think he had better not know that you are so near.’

‘O, I think so too!’ cried Rosa very readily.

‘I suppose,’ pursued Helena, doubtfully, ‘that he must know by-and-by all you have told me; but I am not sure.  Ask Mr. Crisparkle’s advice, my darling.  Ask him whether I may tell Neville as much or as little of what you have told me as I think best.’

Rosa subsided into her state-cabin, and propounded the question.  The Minor Canon was for the free exercise of Helena’s judgment.

‘I thank him very much,’ said Helena, when Rosa emerged again with her report.  ‘Ask him whether it would be best to wait until any more maligning and pursuing of Neville on the part of this wretch shall disclose itself, or to try to anticipate it: I mean, so far as to find out whether any such goes on darkly about us?’

The Minor Canon found this point so difficult to give a confident opinion on, that, after two or three attempts and failures, he suggested a reference to Mr. Grewgious.  Helena acquiescing, he betook himself (with a most unsuccessful assumption of lounging indifference) across the quadrangle to P. J. T.’s, and stated it.  Mr. Grewgious held decidedly to the general principle, that if you could steal a march upon a brigand or a wild beast, you had better do it; and he also held decidedly to the special case, that John Jasper was a brigand and a wild beast in combination.

Thus advised, Mr. Crisparkle came back again and reported to Rosa, who in her turn reported to Helena.  She now steadily pursuing her train of thought at her window, considered thereupon.

‘We may count on Mr. Tartar’s readiness to help us, Rosa?’ she inquired.

O yes!  Rosa shyly thought so.  O yes, Rosa shyly believed she could almost answer for it.  But should she ask Mr. Crisparkle?  ‘I think your authority on the point as good as his, my dear,’ said Helena, sedately, ‘and you needn’t disappear again for that.’  Odd of Helena!

‘You see, Neville,’ Helena pursued after more reflection, ‘knows no one else here: he has not so much as exchanged a word with any one else here.  If Mr. Tartar would call to see him openly and often; if he would spare a minute for the purpose, frequently; if he would even do so, almost daily; something might come of it.’

‘Something might come of it, dear?’ repeated Rosa, surveying her friend’s beauty with a highly perplexed face.  ‘Something might?’

‘If Neville’s movements are really watched, and if the purpose really is to isolate him from all friends and acquaintance and wear his daily life out grain by grain (which would seem to be the threat to you), does it not appear likely,’ said Helena, ‘that his enemy would in some way communicate with Mr. Tartar to warn him off from Neville?  In which case, we might not only know the fact, but might know from Mr. Tartar what the terms of the communication were.’

‘I see!’ cried Rosa.  And immediately darted into her state-cabin again.

Presently her pretty face reappeared, with a greatly heightened colour, and she said that she had told Mr. Crisparkle, and that Mr. Crisparkle had fetched in Mr. Tartar, and that Mr. Tartar—‘who is waiting now, in case you want him,’ added Rosa, with a half look back, and in not a little confusion between the inside of the state-cabin and out—had declared his readiness to act as she had suggested, and to enter on his task that very day.

‘I thank him from my heart,’ said Helena.  ‘Pray tell him so.’

Again not a little confused between the Flower-garden and the Cabin, Rosa dipped in with her message, and dipped out again with more assurances from Mr. Tartar, and stood wavering in a divided state between Helena and him, which proved that confusion is not always necessarily awkward, but may sometimes present a very pleasant appearance.

‘And now, darling,’ said Helena, ‘we will be mindful of the caution that has restricted us to this interview for the present, and will part.  I hear Neville moving too.  Are you going back?’

‘To Miss Twinkleton’s?’ asked Rosa.


‘O, I could never go there any more.  I couldn’t indeed, after that dreadful interview!’ said Rosa.

‘Then where are you going, pretty one?’

‘Now I come to think of it, I don’t know,’ said Rosa.  ‘I have settled nothing at all yet, but my guardian will take care of me.  Don’t be uneasy, dear.  I shall be sure to be somewhere.’

(It did seem likely.)

‘And I shall hear of my Rosebud from Mr. Tartar?’ inquired Helena.

‘Yes, I suppose so; from—’ Rosa looked back again in a flutter, instead of supplying the name.  ‘But tell me one thing before we part, dearest Helena.  Tell me—that you are sure, sure, sure, I couldn’t help it.’

‘Help it, love?’

‘Help making him malicious and revengeful.  I couldn’t hold any terms with him, could I?’

‘You know how I love you, darling,’ answered Helena, with indignation; ‘but I would sooner see you dead at his wicked feet.’

‘That’s a great comfort to me!  And you will tell your poor brother so, won’t you?  And you will give him my remembrance and my sympathy?  And you will ask him not to hate me?’

With a mournful shake of the head, as if that would be quite a superfluous entreaty, Helena lovingly kissed her two hands to her friend, and her friend’s two hands were kissed to her; and then she saw a third hand (a brown one) appear among the flowers and leaves, and help her friend out of sight.

The refection that Mr. Tartar produced in the Admiral’s Cabin by merely touching the spring knob of a locker and the handle of a drawer, was a dazzling enchanted repast.  Wonderful macaroons, glittering liqueurs, magically-preserved tropical spices, and jellies of celestial tropical fruits, displayed themselves profusely at an instant’s notice.  But Mr. Tartar could not make time stand still; and time, with his hard-hearted fleetness, strode on so fast, that Rosa was obliged to come down from the bean-stalk country to earth and her guardian’s chambers.

‘And now, my dear,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘what is to be done next?  To put the same thought in another form; what is to be done with you?’

Rosa could only look apologetically sensible of being very much in her own way and in everybody else’s.  Some passing idea of living, fireproof, up a good many stairs in Furnival’s Inn for the rest of her life, was the only thing in the nature of a plan that occurred to her.

‘It has come into my thoughts,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘that as the respected lady, Miss Twinkleton, occasionally repairs to London in the recess, with the view of extending her connection, and being available for interviews with metropolitan parents, if any—whether, until we have time in which to turn ourselves round, we might invite Miss Twinkleton to come and stay with you for a month?’

‘Stay where, sir?’

‘Whether,’ explained Mr. Grewgious, ‘we might take a furnished lodging in town for a month, and invite Miss Twinkleton to assume the charge of you in it for that period?’

‘And afterwards?’ hinted Rosa.

‘And afterwards,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘we should be no worse off than we are now.’

‘I think that might smooth the way,’ assented Rosa.

‘Then let us,’ said Mr. Grewgious, rising, ‘go and look for a furnished lodging.  Nothing could be more acceptable to me than the sweet presence of last evening, for all the remaining evenings of my existence; but these are not fit surroundings for a young lady.  Let us set out in quest of adventures, and look for a furnished lodging.  In the meantime, Mr. Crisparkle here, about to return home immediately, will no doubt kindly see Miss Twinkleton, and invite that lady to co-operate in our plan.’

Mr. Crisparkle, willingly accepting the commission, took his departure; Mr. Grewgious and his ward set forth on their expedition.

As Mr. Grewgious’s idea of looking at a furnished lodging was to get on the opposite side of the street to a house with a suitable bill in the window, and stare at it; and then work his way tortuously to the back of the house, and stare at that; and then not go in, but make similar trials of another house, with the same result; their progress was but slow.  At length he bethought himself of a widowed cousin, divers times removed, of Mr. Bazzard’s, who had once solicited his influence in the lodger world, and who lived in Southampton Street, Bloomsbury Square.  This lady’s name, stated in uncompromising capitals of considerable size on a brass door-plate, and yet not lucidly as to sex or condition, was Billickin.

Personal faintness, and an overpowering personal candour, were the distinguishing features of Mrs. Billickin’s organisation.  She came languishing out of her own exclusive back parlour, with the air of having been expressly brought-to for the purpose, from an accumulation of several swoons.

‘I hope I see you well, sir,’ said Mrs. Billickin, recognising her visitor with a bend.

‘Thank you, quite well.  And you, ma’am?’ returned Mr. Grewgious.

‘I am as well,’ said Mrs. Billickin, becoming aspirational with excess of faintness, ‘as I hever ham.’

‘My ward and an elderly lady,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘wish to find a genteel lodging for a month or so.  Have you any apartments available, ma’am?’

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ returned Mrs. Billickin, ‘I will not deceive you; far from it.  I have apartments available.’

This with the air of adding: ‘Convey me to the stake, if you will; but while I live, I will be candid.’

‘And now, what apartments, ma’am?’ asked Mr. Grewgious, cosily.  To tame a certain severity apparent on the part of Mrs. Billickin.

‘There is this sitting-room—which, call it what you will, it is the front parlour, Miss,’ said Mrs. Billickin, impressing Rosa into the conversation: ‘the back parlour being what I cling to and never part with; and there is two bedrooms at the top of the ’ouse with gas laid on.  I do not tell you that your bedroom floors is firm, for firm they are not.  The gas-fitter himself allowed, that to make a firm job, he must go right under your jistes, and it were not worth the outlay as a yearly tenant so to do.  The piping is carried above your jistes, and it is best that it should be made known to you.’

Mr. Grewgious and Rosa exchanged looks of some dismay, though they had not the least idea what latent horrors this carriage of the piping might involve.  Mrs. Billickin put her hand to her heart, as having eased it of a load.

‘Well!  The roof is all right, no doubt,’ said Mr. Grewgious, plucking up a little.

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ returned Mrs. Billickin, ‘if I was to tell you, sir, that to have nothink above you is to have a floor above you, I should put a deception upon you which I will not do.  No, sir.  Your slates WILL rattle loose at that elewation in windy weather, do your utmost, best or worst!  I defy you, sir, be you what you may, to keep your slates tight, try how you can.’  Here Mrs. Billickin, having been warm with Mr. Grewgious, cooled a little, not to abuse the moral power she held over him.  ‘Consequent,’ proceeded Mrs. Billickin, more mildly, but still firmly in her incorruptible candour: ‘consequent it would be worse than of no use for me to trapse and travel up to the top of the ’ouse with you, and for you to say, “Mrs. Billickin, what stain do I notice in the ceiling, for a stain I do consider it?” and for me to answer, “I do not understand you, sir.”  No, sir, I will not be so underhand.  I do understand you before you pint it out.  It is the wet, sir.  It do come in, and it do not come in.  You may lay dry there half your lifetime; but the time will come, and it is best that you should know it, when a dripping sop would be no name for you.’

Mr. Grewgious looked much disgraced by being prefigured in this pickle.

‘Have you any other apartments, ma’am?’ he asked.

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ returned Mrs. Billickin, with much solemnity, ‘I have.  You ask me have I, and my open and my honest answer air, I have.  The first and second floors is wacant, and sweet rooms.’

‘Come, come!  There’s nothing against them,’ said Mr. Grewgious, comforting himself.

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ replied Mrs. Billickin, ‘pardon me, there is the stairs.  Unless your mind is prepared for the stairs, it will lead to inevitable disappointment.  You cannot, Miss,’ said Mrs. Billickin, addressing Rosa reproachfully, ‘place a first floor, and far less a second, on the level footing ‘of a parlour.  No, you cannot do it, Miss, it is beyond your power, and wherefore try?’

Mrs. Billickin put it very feelingly, as if Rosa had shown a headstrong determination to hold the untenable position.

‘Can we see these rooms, ma’am?’ inquired her guardian.

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ returned Mrs. Billickin, ‘you can.  I will not disguise it from you, sir; you can.’

Mrs. Billickin then sent into her back parlour for her shawl (it being a state fiction, dating from immemorial antiquity, that she could never go anywhere without being wrapped up), and having been enrolled by her attendant, led the way.  She made various genteel pauses on the stairs for breath, and clutched at her heart in the drawing-room as if it had very nearly got loose, and she had caught it in the act of taking wing.

‘And the second floor?’ said Mr. Grewgious, on finding the first satisfactory.

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ replied Mrs. Billickin, turning upon him with ceremony, as if the time had now come when a distinct understanding on a difficult point must be arrived at, and a solemn confidence established, ‘the second floor is over this.’

‘Can we see that too, ma’am?’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Mrs. Billickin, ‘it is open as the day.’

That also proving satisfactory, Mr. Grewgious retired into a window with Rosa for a few words of consultation, and then asking for pen and ink, sketched out a line or two of agreement.  In the meantime Mrs. Billickin took a seat, and delivered a kind of Index to, or Abstract of, the general question.

‘Five-and-forty shillings per week by the month certain at the time of year,’ said Mrs. Billickin, ‘is only reasonable to both parties.  It is not Bond Street nor yet St. James’s Palace; but it is not pretended that it is.  Neither is it attempted to be denied—for why should it?—that the Arching leads to a mews.  Mewses must exist.  Respecting attendance; two is kep’, at liberal wages.  Words has arisen as to tradesmen, but dirty shoes on fresh hearth-stoning was attributable, and no wish for a commission on your orders.  Coals is either by the fire, or per the scuttle.’  She emphasised the prepositions as marking a subtle but immense difference.  ‘Dogs is not viewed with favour.  Besides litter, they gets stole, and sharing suspicions is apt to creep in, and unpleasantness takes place.’

By this time Mr. Grewgious had his agreement-lines, and his earnest-money, ready.  ‘I have signed it for the ladies, ma’am,’ he said, ‘and you’ll have the goodness to sign it for yourself, Christian and Surname, there, if you please.’

‘Mr. Grewgious,’ said Mrs. Billickin in a new burst of candour, ‘no, sir!  You must excuse the Christian name.’

Mr. Grewgious stared at her.

‘The door-plate is used as a protection,’ said Mrs. Billickin, ‘and acts as such, and go from it I will not.’

Mr. Grewgious stared at Rosa.

‘No, Mr. Grewgious, you must excuse me.  So long as this ’ouse is known indefinite as Billickin’s, and so long as it is a doubt with the riff-raff where Billickin may be hidin’, near the street-door or down the airy, and what his weight and size, so long I feel safe.  But commit myself to a solitary female statement, no, Miss!  Nor would you for a moment wish,’ said Mrs. Billickin, with a strong sense of injury, ‘to take that advantage of your sex, if you were not brought to it by inconsiderate example.’

Rosa reddening as if she had made some most disgraceful attempt to overreach the good lady, besought Mr. Grewgious to rest content with any signature.  And accordingly, in a baronial way, the sign-manual Billickin got appended to the document.

Details were then settled for taking possession on the next day but one, when Miss Twinkleton might be reasonably expected; and Rosa went back to Furnival’s Inn on her guardian’s arm.

Behold Mr. Tartar walking up and down Furnival’s Inn, checking himself when he saw them coming, and advancing towards them!

‘It occurred to me,’ hinted Mr. Tartar, ‘that we might go up the river, the weather being so delicious and the tide serving.  I have a boat of my own at the Temple Stairs.’

‘I have not been up the river for this many a day,’ said Mr. Grewgious, tempted.

‘I was never up the river,’ added Rosa.

Within half an hour they were setting this matter right by going up the river.  The tide was running with them, the afternoon was charming.  Mr. Tartar’s boat was perfect.  Mr. Tartar and Lobley (Mr. Tartar’s man) pulled a pair of oars.  Mr. Tartar had a yacht, it seemed, lying somewhere down by Greenhithe; and Mr. Tartar’s man had charge of this yacht, and was detached upon his present service.  He was a jolly-favoured man, with tawny hair and whiskers, and a big red face.  He was the dead image of the sun in old woodcuts, his hair and whiskers answering for rays all around him.  Resplendent in the bow of the boat, he was a shining sight, with a man-of-war’s man’s shirt on—or off, according to opinion—and his arms and breast tattooed all sorts of patterns.  Lobley seemed to take it easily, and so did Mr. Tartar; yet their oars bent as they pulled, and the boat bounded under them.  Mr. Tartar talked as if he were doing nothing, to Rosa who was really doing nothing, and to Mr. Grewgious who was doing this much that he steered all wrong; but what did that matter, when a turn of Mr. Tartar’s skilful wrist, or a mere grin of Mr. Lobley’s over the bow, put all to rights!  The tide bore them on in the gayest and most sparkling manner, until they stopped to dine in some ever-lastingly-green garden, needing no matter-of-fact identification here; and then the tide obligingly turned—being devoted to that party alone for that day; and as they floated idly among some osier-beds, Rosa tried what she could do in the rowing way, and came off splendidly, being much assisted; and Mr. Grewgious tried what he could do, and came off on his back, doubled up with an oar under his chin, being not assisted at all.  Then there was an interval of rest under boughs (such rest!) what time Mr. Lobley mopped, and, arranging cushions, stretchers, and the like, danced the tight-rope the whole length of the boat like a man to whom shoes were a superstition and stockings slavery; and then came the sweet return among delicious odours of limes in bloom, and musical ripplings; and, all too soon, the great black city cast its shadow on the waters, and its dark bridges spanned them as death spans life, and the everlastingly-green garden seemed to be left for everlasting, unregainable and far away.

‘Cannot people get through life without gritty stages, I wonder?’ Rosa thought next day, when the town was very gritty again, and everything had a strange and an uncomfortable appearance of seeming to wait for something that wouldn’t come.  No.  She began to think, that, now the Cloisterham school-days had glided past and gone, the gritty stages would begin to set in at intervals and make themselves wearily known!

Yet what did Rosa expect?  Did she expect Miss Twinkleton?  Miss Twinkleton duly came.  Forth from her back parlour issued the Billickin to receive Miss Twinkleton, and War was in the Billickin’s eye from that fell moment.

Miss Twinkleton brought a quantity of luggage with her, having all Rosa’s as well as her own.  The Billickin took it ill that Miss Twinkleton’s mind, being sorely disturbed by this luggage, failed to take in her personal identity with that clearness of perception which was due to its demands.  Stateliness mounted her gloomy throne upon the Billickin’s brow in consequence.  And when Miss Twinkleton, in agitation taking stock of her trunks and packages, of which she had seventeen, particularly counted in the Billickin herself as number eleven, the B. found it necessary to repudiate.

‘Things cannot too soon be put upon the footing,’ said she, with a candour so demonstrative as to be almost obtrusive, ‘that the person of the ’ouse is not a box nor yet a bundle, nor a carpet-bag.  No, I am ’ily obleeged to you, Miss Twinkleton, nor yet a beggar.’

This last disclaimer had reference to Miss Twinkleton’s distractedly pressing two-and-sixpence on her, instead of the cabman.

Thus cast off, Miss Twinkleton wildly inquired, ‘which gentleman’ was to be paid?  There being two gentlemen in that position (Miss Twinkleton having arrived with two cabs), each gentleman on being paid held forth his two-and-sixpence on the flat of his open hand, and, with a speechless stare and a dropped jaw, displayed his wrong to heaven and earth.  Terrified by this alarming spectacle, Miss Twinkleton placed another shilling in each hand; at the same time appealing to the law in flurried accents, and recounting her luggage this time with the two gentlemen in, who caused the total to come out complicated.  Meanwhile the two gentlemen, each looking very hard at the last shilling grumblingly, as if it might become eighteen-pence if he kept his eyes on it, descended the doorsteps, ascended their carriages, and drove away, leaving Miss Twinkleton on a bonnet-box in tears.

The Billickin beheld this manifestation of weakness without sympathy, and gave directions for ‘a young man to be got in’ to wrestle with the luggage.  When that gladiator had disappeared from the arena, peace ensued, and the new lodgers dined.

But the Billickin had somehow come to the knowledge that Miss Twinkleton kept a school.  The leap from that knowledge to the inference that Miss Twinkleton set herself to teach her something, was easy.  ‘But you don’t do it,’ soliloquised the Billickin; ‘I am not your pupil, whatever she,’ meaning Rosa, ‘may be, poor thing!’

Miss Twinkleton, on the other hand, having changed her dress and recovered her spirits, was animated by a bland desire to improve the occasion in all ways, and to be as serene a model as possible.  In a happy compromise between her two states of existence, she had already become, with her workbasket before her, the equably vivacious companion with a slight judicious flavouring of information, when the Billickin announced herself.

‘I will not hide from you, ladies,’ said the B., enveloped in the shawl of state, ‘for it is not my character to hide neither my motives nor my actions, that I take the liberty to look in upon you to express a ’ope that your dinner was to your liking.  Though not Professed but Plain, still her wages should be a sufficient object to her to stimilate to soar above mere roast and biled.’

‘We dined very well indeed,’ said Rosa, ‘thank you.’

‘Accustomed,’ said Miss Twinkleton with a gracious air, which to the jealous ears of the Billickin seemed to add ‘my good woman’—‘accustomed to a liberal and nutritious, yet plain and salutary diet, we have found no reason to bemoan our absence from the ancient city, and the methodical household, in which the quiet routine of our lot has been hitherto cast.’

‘I did think it well to mention to my cook,’ observed the Billickin with a gush of candour, ‘which I ’ope you will agree with, Miss Twinkleton, was a right precaution, that the young lady being used to what we should consider here but poor diet, had better be brought forward by degrees.  For, a rush from scanty feeding to generous feeding, and from what you may call messing to what you may call method, do require a power of constitution which is not often found in youth, particular when undermined by boarding-school!’

It will be seen that the Billickin now openly pitted herself against Miss Twinkleton, as one whom she had fully ascertained to be her natural enemy.

‘Your remarks,’ returned Miss Twinkleton, from a remote moral eminence, ‘are well meant, I have no doubt; but you will permit me to observe that they develop a mistaken view of the subject, which can only be imputed to your extreme want of accurate information.’

‘My informiation,’ retorted the Billickin, throwing in an extra syllable for the sake of emphasis at once polite and powerful—‘my informiation, Miss Twinkleton, were my own experience, which I believe is usually considered to be good guidance.  But whether so or not, I was put in youth to a very genteel boarding-school, the mistress being no less a lady than yourself, of about your own age or it may be some years younger, and a poorness of blood flowed from the table which has run through my life.’

‘Very likely,’ said Miss Twinkleton, still from her distant eminence; ‘and very much to be deplored.—Rosa, my dear, how are you getting on with your work?’

‘Miss Twinkleton,’ resumed the Billickin, in a courtly manner, ‘before retiring on the ’int, as a lady should, I wish to ask of yourself, as a lady, whether I am to consider that my words is doubted?’

‘I am not aware on what ground you cherish such a supposition,’ began Miss Twinkleton, when the Billickin neatly stopped her.

‘Do not, if you please, put suppositions betwixt my lips where none such have been imparted by myself.  Your flow of words is great, Miss Twinkleton, and no doubt is expected from you by your pupils, and no doubt is considered worth the money.  No doubt, I am sure.  But not paying for flows of words, and not asking to be favoured with them here, I wish to repeat my question.’

‘If you refer to the poverty of your circulation,’ began Miss Twinkleton, when again the Billickin neatly stopped her.

‘I have used no such expressions.’

‘If you refer, then, to the poorness of your blood—’

‘Brought upon me,’ stipulated the Billickin, expressly, ‘at a boarding-school—’

‘Then,’ resumed Miss Twinkleton, ‘all I can say is, that I am bound to believe, on your asseveration, that it is very poor indeed.  I cannot forbear adding, that if that unfortunate circumstance influences your conversation, it is much to be lamented, and it is eminently desirable that your blood were richer.—Rosa, my dear, how are you getting on with your work?’

‘Hem!  Before retiring, Miss,’ proclaimed the Billickin to Rosa, loftily cancelling Miss Twinkleton, ‘I should wish it to be understood between yourself and me that my transactions in future is with you alone.  I know no elderly lady here, Miss, none older than yourself.’

‘A highly desirable arrangement, Rosa my dear,’ observed Miss Twinkleton.

‘It is not, Miss,’ said the Billickin, with a sarcastic smile, ‘that I possess the Mill I have heard of, in which old single ladies could be ground up young (what a gift it would be to some of us), but that I limit myself to you totally.’

‘When I have any desire to communicate a request to the person of the house, Rosa my dear,’ observed Miss Twinkleton with majestic cheerfulness, ‘I will make it known to you, and you will kindly undertake, I am sure, that it is conveyed to the proper quarter.’

‘Good-evening, Miss,’ said the Billickin, at once affectionately and distantly.  ‘Being alone in my eyes, I wish you good-evening with best wishes, and do not find myself drove, I am truly ’appy to say, into expressing my contempt for an indiwidual, unfortunately for yourself, belonging to you.’

The Billickin gracefully withdrew with this parting speech, and from that time Rosa occupied the restless position of shuttlecock between these two battledores.  Nothing could be done without a smart match being played out.  Thus, on the daily-arising question of dinner, Miss Twinkleton would say, the three being present together:

‘Perhaps, my love, you will consult with the person of the house, whether she can procure us a lamb’s fry; or, failing that, a roast fowl.’

On which the Billickin would retort (Rosa not having spoken a word), ‘If you was better accustomed to butcher’s meat, Miss, you would not entertain the idea of a lamb’s fry.  Firstly, because lambs has long been sheep, and secondly, because there is such things as killing-days, and there is not.  As to roast fowls, Miss, why you must be quite surfeited with roast fowls, letting alone your buying, when you market for yourself, the agedest of poultry with the scaliest of legs, quite as if you was accustomed to picking ’em out for cheapness.  Try a little inwention, Miss.  Use yourself to ’ousekeeping a bit.  Come now, think of somethink else.’

To this encouragement, offered with the indulgent toleration of a wise and liberal expert, Miss Twinkleton would rejoin, reddening:

‘Or, my dear, you might propose to the person of the house a duck.’

‘Well, Miss!’ the Billickin would exclaim (still no word being spoken by Rosa), ‘you do surprise me when you speak of ducks!  Not to mention that they’re getting out of season and very dear, it really strikes to my heart to see you have a duck; for the breast, which is the only delicate cuts in a duck, always goes in a direction which I cannot imagine where, and your own plate comes down so miserably skin-and-bony!  Try again, Miss.  Think more of yourself, and less of others.  A dish of sweetbreads now, or a bit of mutton.  Something at which you can get your equal chance.’

Occasionally the game would wax very brisk indeed, and would be kept up with a smartness rendering such an encounter as this quite tame.  But the Billickin almost invariably made by far the higher score; and would come in with side hits of the most unexpected and extraordinary description, when she seemed without a chance.

All this did not improve the gritty state of things in London, or the air that London had acquired in Rosa’s eyes of waiting for something that never came.  Tired of working, and conversing with Miss Twinkleton, she suggested working and reading: to which Miss Twinkleton readily assented, as an admirable reader, of tried powers.  But Rosa soon made the discovery that Miss Twinkleton didn’t read fairly.  She cut the love-scenes, interpolated passages in praise of female celibacy, and was guilty of other glaring pious frauds.  As an instance in point, take the glowing passage: ‘Ever dearest and best adored,—said Edward, clasping the dear head to his breast, and drawing the silken hair through his caressing fingers, from which he suffered it to fall like golden rain,—ever dearest and best adored, let us fly from the unsympathetic world and the sterile coldness of the stony-hearted, to the rich warm Paradise of Trust and Love.’  Miss Twinkleton’s fraudulent version tamely ran thus: ‘Ever engaged to me with the consent of our parents on both sides, and the approbation of the silver-haired rector of the district,—said Edward, respectfully raising to his lips the taper fingers so skilful in embroidery, tambour, crochet, and other truly feminine arts,—let me call on thy papa ere to-morrow’s dawn has sunk into the west, and propose a suburban establishment, lowly it may be, but within our means, where he will be always welcome as an evening guest, and where every arrangement shall invest economy, and constant interchange of scholastic acquirements with the attributes of the ministering angel to domestic bliss.’

As the days crept on and nothing happened, the neighbours began to say that the pretty girl at Billickin’s, who looked so wistfully and so much out of the gritty windows of the drawing-room, seemed to be losing her spirits.  The pretty girl might have lost them but for the accident of lighting on some books of voyages and sea-adventure.  As a compensation against their romance, Miss Twinkleton, reading aloud, made the most of all the latitudes and longitudes, bearings, winds, currents, offsets, and other statistics (which she felt to be none the less improving because they expressed nothing whatever to her); while Rosa, listening intently, made the most of what was nearest to her heart.  So they both did better than before.


Although Mr. Crisparkle and John Jasper met daily under the Cathedral roof, nothing at any time passed between them having reference to Edwin Drood, after the time, more than half a year gone by, when Jasper mutely showed the Minor Canon the conclusion and the resolution entered in his Diary.  It is not likely that they ever met, though so often, without the thoughts of each reverting to the subject.  It is not likely that they ever met, though so often, without a sensation on the part of each that the other was a perplexing secret to him. Jasper as the denouncer and pursuer of Neville Landless, and Mr. Crisparkle as his consistent advocate and protector, must at least have stood sufficiently in opposition to have speculated with keen interest on the steadiness and next direction of the other’s designs.  But neither ever broached the theme.

False pretence not being in the Minor Canon’s nature, he doubtless displayed openly that he would at any time have revived the subject, and even desired to discuss it.  The determined reticence of Jasper, however, was not to be so approached.  Impassive, moody, solitary, resolute, so concentrated on one idea, and on its attendant fixed purpose, that he would share it with no fellow-creature, he lived apart from human life.  Constantly exercising an Art which brought him into mechanical harmony with others, and which could not have been pursued unless he and they had been in the nicest mechanical relations and unison, it is curious to consider that the spirit of the man was in moral accordance or interchange with nothing around him.  This indeed he had confided to his lost nephew, before the occasion for his present inflexibility arose.

That he must know of Rosa’s abrupt departure, and that he must divine its cause, was not to be doubted.  Did he suppose that he had terrified her into silence? or did he suppose that she had imparted to any one—to Mr. Crisparkle himself, for instance—the particulars of his last interview with her?  Mr. Crisparkle could not determine this in his mind.  He could not but admit, however, as a just man, that it was not, of itself, a crime to fall in love with Rosa, any more than it was a crime to offer to set love above revenge.

The dreadful suspicion of Jasper, which Rosa was so shocked to have received into her imagination, appeared to have no harbour in Mr. Crisparkle’s.  If it ever haunted Helena’s thoughts or Neville’s, neither gave it one spoken word of utterance.  Mr. Grewgious took no pains to conceal his implacable dislike of Jasper, yet he never referred it, however distantly, to such a source.  But he was a reticent as well as an eccentric man; and he made no mention of a certain evening when he warmed his hands at the gatehouse fire, and looked steadily down upon a certain heap of torn and miry clothes upon the floor.

Drowsy Cloisterham, whenever it awoke to a passing reconsideration of a story above six months old and dismissed by the bench of magistrates, was pretty equally divided in opinion whether John Jasper’s beloved nephew had been killed by his treacherously passionate rival, or in an open struggle; or had, for his own purposes, spirited himself away.  It then lifted up its head, to notice that the bereaved Jasper was still ever devoted to discovery and revenge; and then dozed off again.  This was the condition of matters, all round, at the period to which the present history has now attained.

The Cathedral doors have closed for the night; and the Choir-master, on a short leave of absence for two or three services, sets his face towards London.  He travels thither by the means by which Rosa travelled, and arrives, as Rosa arrived, on a hot, dusty evening.

His travelling baggage is easily carried in his hand, and he repairs with it on foot, to a hybrid hotel in a little square behind Aldersgate Street, near the General Post Office.  It is hotel, boarding-house, or lodging-house, at its visitor’s option.  It announces itself, in the new Railway Advertisers, as a novel enterprise, timidly beginning to spring up.  It bashfully, almost apologetically, gives the traveller to understand that it does not expect him, on the good old constitutional hotel plan, to order a pint of sweet blacking for his drinking, and throw it away; but insinuates that he may have his boots blacked instead of his stomach, and maybe also have bed, breakfast, attendance, and a porter up all night, for a certain fixed charge.  From these and similar premises, many true Britons in the lowest spirits deduce that the times are levelling times, except in the article of high roads, of which there will shortly be not one in England.

He eats without appetite, and soon goes forth again.  Eastward and still eastward through the stale streets he takes his way, until he reaches his destination: a miserable court, specially miserable among many such.

He ascends a broken staircase, opens a door, looks into a dark stifling room, and says: ‘Are you alone here?’

‘Alone, deary; worse luck for me, and better for you,’ replies a croaking voice.  ‘Come in, come in, whoever you be: I can’t see you till I light a match, yet I seem to know the sound of your speaking.  I’m acquainted with you, ain’t I?’

‘Light your match, and try.’

‘So I will, deary, so I will; but my hand that shakes, as I can’t lay it on a match all in a moment.  And I cough so, that, put my matches where I may, I never find ’em there.  They jump and start, as I cough and cough, like live things.  Are you off a voyage, deary?’


‘Not seafaring?’


‘Well, there’s land customers, and there’s water customers.  I’m a mother to both.  Different from Jack Chinaman t’other side the court.  He ain’t a father to neither.  It ain’t in him.  And he ain’t got the true secret of mixing, though he charges as much as me that has, and more if he can get it.  Here’s a match, and now where’s the candle?  If my cough takes me, I shall cough out twenty matches afore I gets a light.’

But she finds the candle, and lights it, before the cough comes on.  It seizes her in the moment of success, and she sits down rocking herself to and fro, and gasping at intervals: ‘O, my lungs is awful bad! my lungs is wore away to cabbage-nets!’ until the fit is over.  During its continuance she has had no power of sight, or any other power not absorbed in the struggle; but as it leaves her, she begins to strain her eyes, and as soon as she is able to articulate, she cries, staring:

‘Why, it’s you!’

‘Are you so surprised to see me?’

‘I thought I never should have seen you again, deary.  I thought you was dead, and gone to Heaven.’


‘I didn’t suppose you could have kept away, alive, so long, from the poor old soul with the real receipt for mixing it.  And you are in mourning too!  Why didn’t you come and have a pipe or two of comfort?  Did they leave you money, perhaps, and so you didn’t want comfort?’


‘Who was they as died, deary?’

‘A relative.’

‘Died of what, lovey?’

‘Probably, Death.’

‘We are short to-night!’ cries the woman, with a propitiatory laugh.  ‘Short and snappish we are!  But we’re out of sorts for want of a smoke.  We’ve got the all-overs, haven’t us, deary?  But this is the place to cure ’em in; this is the place where the all-overs is smoked off.’

‘You may make ready, then,’ replies the visitor, ‘as soon as you like.’

He divests himself of his shoes, loosens his cravat, and lies across the foot of the squalid bed, with his head resting on his left hand.

‘Now you begin to look like yourself,’ says the woman approvingly.  ‘Now I begin to know my old customer indeed!  Been trying to mix for yourself this long time, poppet?’

‘I have been taking it now and then in my own way.’

‘Never take it your own way.  It ain’t good for trade, and it ain’t good for you.  Where’s my ink-bottle, and where’s my thimble, and where’s my little spoon?  He’s going to take it in a artful form now, my deary dear!’

Entering on her process, and beginning to bubble and blow at the faint spark enclosed in the hollow of her hands, she speaks from time to time, in a tone of snuffling satisfaction, without leaving off.  When he speaks, he does so without looking at her, and as if his thoughts were already roaming away by anticipation.

‘I’ve got a pretty many smokes ready for you, first and last, haven’t I, chuckey?’

‘A good many.’

‘When you first come, you was quite new to it; warn’t ye?’

‘Yes, I was easily disposed of, then.’

‘But you got on in the world, and was able by-and-by to take your pipe with the best of ’em, warn’t ye?’

‘Ah; and the worst.’

‘It’s just ready for you.  What a sweet singer you was when you first come!  Used to drop your head, and sing yourself off like a bird!  It’s ready for you now, deary.’

He takes it from her with great care, and puts the mouthpiece to his lips.  She seats herself beside him, ready to refill the pipe.

After inhaling a few whiffs in silence, he doubtingly accosts her with:

‘Is it as potent as it used to be?’

‘What do you speak of, deary?’

‘What should I speak of, but what I have in my mouth?’

‘It’s just the same.  Always the identical same.’

‘It doesn’t taste so.  And it’s slower.’

‘You’ve got more used to it, you see.’

‘That may be the cause, certainly.  Look here.’  He stops, becomes dreamy, and seems to forget that he has invited her attention.  She bends over him, and speaks in his ear.

‘I’m attending to you.  Says you just now, Look here.  Says I now, I’m attending to ye.  We was talking just before of your being used to it.’

‘I know all that.  I was only thinking.  Look here.  Suppose you had something in your mind; something you were going to do.’

‘Yes, deary; something I was going to do?’

‘But had not quite determined to do.’

‘Yes, deary.’

‘Might or might not do, you understand.’

‘Yes.’  With the point of a needle she stirs the contents of the bowl.

‘Should you do it in your fancy, when you were lying here doing this?’

She nods her head.  ‘Over and over again.’

‘Just like me!  I did it over and over again.  I have done it hundreds of thousands of times in this room.’

‘It’s to be hoped it was pleasant to do, deary.’

‘It was pleasant to do!’

He says this with a savage air, and a spring or start at her.  Quite unmoved she retouches and replenishes the contents of the bowl with her little spatula.  Seeing her intent upon the occupation, he sinks into his former attitude.

‘It was a journey, a difficult and dangerous journey.  That was the subject in my mind.  A hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses where a slip would be destruction.  Look down, look down!  You see what lies at the bottom there?’

He has darted forward to say it, and to point at the ground, as though at some imaginary object far beneath.  The woman looks at him, as his spasmodic face approaches close to hers, and not at his pointing.  She seems to know what the influence of her perfect quietude would be; if so, she has not miscalculated it, for he subsides again.

‘Well; I have told you I did it here hundreds of thousands of times.  What do I say?  I did it millions and billions of times.  I did it so often, and through such vast expanses of time, that when it was really done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so soon.’

‘That’s the journey you have been away upon,’ she quietly remarks.

He glares at her as he smokes; and then, his eyes becoming filmy, answers: ‘That’s the journey.’

Silence ensues.  His eyes are sometimes closed and sometimes open.  The woman sits beside him, very attentive to the pipe, which is all the while at his lips.

‘I’ll warrant,’ she observes, when he has been looking fixedly at her for some consecutive moments, with a singular appearance in his eyes of seeming to see her a long way off, instead of so near him: ‘I’ll warrant you made the journey in a many ways, when you made it so often?’

‘No, always in one way.’

‘Always in the same way?’


‘In the way in which it was really made at last?’


‘And always took the same pleasure in harping on it?’


For the time he appears unequal to any other reply than this lazy monosyllabic assent.  Probably to assure herself that it is not the assent of a mere automaton, she reverses the form of her next sentence.

‘Did you never get tired of it, deary, and try to call up something else for a change?’

He struggles into a sitting posture, and retorts upon her: ‘What do you mean?  What did I want?  What did I come for?’

She gently lays him back again, and before returning him the instrument he has dropped, revives the fire in it with her own breath; then says to him, coaxingly:

‘Sure, sure, sure!  Yes, yes, yes!  Now I go along with you.  You was too quick for me.  I see now.  You come o’ purpose to take the journey.  Why, I might have known it, through its standing by you so.’

He answers first with a laugh, and then with a passionate setting of his teeth: ‘Yes, I came on purpose.  When I could not bear my life, I came to get the relief, and I got it.  It WAS one!  It WAS one!’  This repetition with extraordinary vehemence, and the snarl of a wolf.

She observes him very cautiously, as though mentally feeling her way to her next remark.  It is: ‘There was a fellow-traveller, deary.’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’  He breaks into a ringing laugh, or rather yell.

‘To think,’ he cries, ‘how often fellow-traveller, and yet not know it!  To think how many times he went the journey, and never saw the road!’

The woman kneels upon the floor, with her arms crossed on the coverlet of the bed, close by him, and her chin upon them.  In this crouching attitude she watches him.  The pipe is falling from his mouth.  She puts it back, and laying her hand upon his chest, moves him slightly from side to side.  Upon that he speaks, as if she had spoken.

‘Yes!  I always made the journey first, before the changes of colours and the great landscapes and glittering processions began.  They couldn’t begin till it was off my mind.  I had no room till then for anything else.’

Once more he lapses into silence.  Once more she lays her hand upon his chest, and moves him slightly to and fro, as a cat might stimulate a half-slain mouse.  Once more he speaks, as if she had spoken.

‘What?  I told you so.  When it comes to be real at last, it is so short that it seems unreal for the first time.  Hark!’

‘Yes, deary.  I’m listening.’

‘Time and place are both at hand.’

He is on his feet, speaking in a whisper, and as if in the dark.

‘Time, place, and fellow-traveller,’ she suggests, adopting his tone, and holding him softly by the arm.

‘How could the time be at hand unless the fellow-traveller was?  Hush!  The journey’s made.  It’s over.’

‘So soon?’

‘That’s what I said to you.  So soon.  Wait a little.  This is a vision.  I shall sleep it off.  It has been too short and easy.  I must have a better vision than this; this is the poorest of all.  No struggle, no consciousness of peril, no entreaty—and yet I never saw that before.’  With a start.

‘Saw what, deary?’

‘Look at it!  Look what a poor, mean, miserable thing it is!  That must be real.  It’s over.’

He has accompanied this incoherence with some wild unmeaning gestures; but they trail off into the progressive inaction of stupor, and he lies a log upon the bed.

The woman, however, is still inquisitive.  With a repetition of her cat-like action she slightly stirs his body again, and listens; stirs again, and listens; whispers to it, and listens.  Finding it past all rousing for the time, she slowly gets upon her feet, with an air of disappointment, and flicks the face with the back of her hand in turning from it.

But she goes no further away from it than the chair upon the hearth.  She sits in it, with an elbow on one of its arms, and her chin upon her hand, intent upon him.  ‘I heard ye say once,’ she croaks under her breath, ‘I heard ye say once, when I was lying where you’re lying, and you were making your speculations upon me, “Unintelligible!”  I heard you say so, of two more than me.  But don’t ye be too sure always; don’t be ye too sure, beauty!’

Unwinking, cat-like, and intent, she presently adds: ‘Not so potent as it once was?  Ah!  Perhaps not at first.  You may be more right there.  Practice makes perfect.  I may have learned the secret how to make ye talk, deary.’

He talks no more, whether or no.  Twitching in an ugly way from time to time, both as to his face and limbs, he lies heavy and silent.  The wretched candle burns down; the woman takes its expiring end between her fingers, lights another at it, crams the guttering frying morsel deep into the candlestick, and rams it home with the new candle, as if she were loading some ill-savoured and unseemly weapon of witchcraft; the new candle in its turn burns down; and still he lies insensible.  At length what remains of the last candle is blown out, and daylight looks into the room.

It has not looked very long, when he sits up, chilled and shaking, slowly recovers consciousness of where he is, and makes himself ready to depart.  The woman receives what he pays her with a grateful, ‘Bless ye, bless ye, deary!’ and seems, tired out, to begin making herself ready for sleep as he leaves the room.

But seeming may be false or true.  It is false in this case; for, the moment the stairs have ceased to creak under his tread, she glides after him, muttering emphatically: ‘I’ll not miss ye twice!’

There is no egress from the court but by its entrance.  With a weird peep from the doorway, she watches for his looking back.  He does not look back before disappearing, with a wavering step.  She follows him, peeps from the court, sees him still faltering on without looking back, and holds him in view.

He repairs to the back of Aldersgate Street, where a door immediately opens to his knocking.  She crouches in another doorway, watching that one, and easily comprehending that he puts up temporarily at that house.  Her patience is unexhausted by hours.  For sustenance she can, and does, buy bread within a hundred yards, and milk as it is carried past her.

He comes forth again at noon, having changed his dress, but carrying nothing in his hand, and having nothing carried for him.  He is not going back into the country, therefore, just yet.  She follows him a little way, hesitates, instantaneously turns confidently, and goes straight into the house he has quitted.

‘Is the gentleman from Cloisterham indoors?

‘Just gone out.’

‘Unlucky.  When does the gentleman return to Cloisterham?’

‘At six this evening.’

‘Bless ye and thank ye.  May the Lord prosper a business where a civil question, even from a poor soul, is so civilly answered!’

‘I’ll not miss ye twice!’ repeats the poor soul in the street, and not so civilly.  ‘I lost ye last, where that omnibus you got into nigh your journey’s end plied betwixt the station and the place.  I wasn’t so much as certain that you even went right on to the place.  Now I know ye did.  My gentleman from Cloisterham, I’ll be there before ye, and bide your coming.  I’ve swore my oath that I’ll not miss ye twice!’

Accordingly, that same evening the poor soul stands in Cloisterham High Street, looking at the many quaint gables of the Nuns’ House, and getting through the time as she best can until nine o’clock; at which hour she has reason to suppose that the arriving omnibus passengers may have some interest for her.  The friendly darkness, at that hour, renders it easy for her to ascertain whether this be so or not; and it is so, for the passenger not to be missed twice arrives among the rest.

‘Now let me see what becomes of you.  Go on!’

An observation addressed to the air, and yet it might be addressed to the passenger, so compliantly does he go on along the High Street until he comes to an arched gateway, at which he unexpectedly vanishes.  The poor soul quickens her pace; is swift, and close upon him entering under the gateway; but only sees a postern staircase on one side of it, and on the other side an ancient vaulted room, in which a large-headed, gray-haired gentleman is writing, under the odd circumstances of sitting open to the thoroughfare and eyeing all who pass, as if he were toll-taker of the gateway: though the way is free.

‘Halloa!’ he cries in a low voice, seeing her brought to a stand-still: ‘who are you looking for?’

‘There was a gentleman passed in here this minute, sir.’

‘Of course there was.  What do you want with him?’

‘Where do he live, deary?’

‘Live?  Up that staircase.’

‘Bless ye!  Whisper.  What’s his name, deary?’

‘Surname Jasper, Christian name John.  Mr. John Jasper.’

‘Has he a calling, good gentleman?’

‘Calling?  Yes.  Sings in the choir.’

‘In the spire?’


‘What’s that?’

Mr. Datchery rises from his papers, and comes to his doorstep.  ‘Do you know what a cathedral is?’ he asks, jocosely.

The woman nods.

‘What is it?’

She looks puzzled, casting about in her mind to find a definition, when it occurs to her that it is easier to point out the substantial object itself, massive against the dark-blue sky and the early stars.

‘That’s the answer.  Go in there at seven to-morrow morning, and you may see Mr. John Jasper, and hear him too.’

‘Thank ye!  Thank ye!’

The burst of triumph in which she thanks him does not escape the notice of the single buffer of an easy temper living idly on his means.  He glances at her; clasps his hands behind him, as the wont of such buffers is; and lounges along the echoing Precincts at her side.

‘Or,’ he suggests, with a backward hitch of his head, ‘you can go up at once to Mr. Jasper’s rooms there.’

The woman eyes him with a cunning smile, and shakes her head.

‘O! you don’t want to speak to him?’

She repeats her dumb reply, and forms with her lips a soundless ‘No.’

‘You can admire him at a distance three times a day, whenever you like.  It’s a long way to come for that, though.’

The woman looks up quickly.  If Mr. Datchery thinks she is to be so induced to declare where she comes from, he is of a much easier temper than she is.  But she acquits him of such an artful thought, as he lounges along, like the chartered bore of the city, with his uncovered gray hair blowing about, and his purposeless hands rattling the loose money in the pockets of his trousers.

The chink of the money has an attraction for her greedy ears.  ‘Wouldn’t you help me to pay for my traveller’s lodging, dear gentleman, and to pay my way along?  I am a poor soul, I am indeed, and troubled with a grievous cough.’

‘You know the travellers’ lodging, I perceive, and are making directly for it,’ is Mr. Datchery’s bland comment, still rattling his loose money.  ‘Been here often, my good woman?’

‘Once in all my life.’

‘Ay, ay?’

They have arrived at the entrance to the Monks’ Vineyard.  An appropriate remembrance, presenting an exemplary model for imitation, is revived in the woman’s mind by the sight of the place.  She stops at the gate, and says energetically:

‘By this token, though you mayn’t believe it, That a young gentleman gave me three-and-sixpence as I was coughing my breath away on this very grass.  I asked him for three-and-sixpence, and he gave it me.’

‘Wasn’t it a little cool to name your sum?’ hints Mr. Datchery, still rattling.  ‘Isn’t it customary to leave the amount open?  Mightn’t it have had the appearance, to the young gentleman—only the appearance—that he was rather dictated to?’

‘Look’ee here, deary,’ she replies, in a confidential and persuasive tone, ‘I wanted the money to lay it out on a medicine as does me good, and as I deal in.  I told the young gentleman so, and he gave it me, and I laid it out honest to the last brass farden.  I want to lay out the same sum in the same way now; and if you’ll give it me, I’ll lay it out honest to the last brass farden again, upon my soul!’

‘What’s the medicine?’

‘I’ll be honest with you beforehand, as well as after.  It’s opium.’

Mr. Datchery, with a sudden change of countenance, gives her a sudden look.

‘It’s opium, deary.  Neither more nor less.  And it’s like a human creetur so far, that you always hear what can be said against it, but seldom what can be said in its praise.’

Mr. Datchery begins very slowly to count out the sum demanded of him.  Greedily watching his hands, she continues to hold forth on the great example set him.

‘It was last Christmas Eve, just arter dark, the once that I was here afore, when the young gentleman gave me the three-and-six.’  Mr. Datchery stops in his counting, finds he has counted wrong, shakes his money together, and begins again.

‘And the young gentleman’s name,’ she adds, ‘was Edwin.’

Mr. Datchery drops some money, stoops to pick it up, and reddens with the exertion as he asks:

‘How do you know the young gentleman’s name?’

‘I asked him for it, and he told it me.  I only asked him the two questions, what was his Chris’en name, and whether he’d a sweetheart?  And he answered, Edwin, and he hadn’t.’

Mr. Datchery pauses with the selected coins in his hand, rather as if he were falling into a brown study of their value, and couldn’t bear to part with them.  The woman looks at him distrustfully, and with her anger brewing for the event of his thinking better of the gift; but he bestows it on her as if he were abstracting his mind from the sacrifice, and with many servile thanks she goes her way.

John Jasper’s lamp is kindled, and his lighthouse is shining when Mr. Datchery returns alone towards it.  As mariners on a dangerous voyage, approaching an iron-bound coast, may look along the beams of the warning light to the haven lying beyond it that may never be reached, so Mr. Datchery’s wistful gaze is directed to this beacon, and beyond.

His object in now revisiting his lodging is merely to put on the hat which seems so superfluous an article in his wardrobe.  It is half-past ten by the Cathedral clock when he walks out into the Precincts again; he lingers and looks about him, as though, the enchanted hour when Mr. Durdles may be stoned home having struck, he had some expectation of seeing the Imp who is appointed to the mission of stoning him.

In effect, that Power of Evil is abroad.  Having nothing living to stone at the moment, he is discovered by Mr. Datchery in the unholy office of stoning the dead, through the railings of the churchyard.  The Imp finds this a relishing and piquing pursuit; firstly, because their resting-place is announced to be sacred; and secondly, because the tall headstones are sufficiently like themselves, on their beat in the dark, to justify the delicious fancy that they are hurt when hit.

Mr. Datchery hails with him: ‘Halloa, Winks!’

He acknowledges the hail with: ‘Halloa, Dick!’  Their acquaintance seemingly having been established on a familiar footing.

‘But, I say,’ he remonstrates, ‘don’t yer go a-making my name public.  I never means to plead to no name, mind yer.  When they says to me in the Lock-up, a-going to put me down in the book, “What’s your name?” I says to them, “Find out.”  Likewise when they says, “What’s your religion?” I says, “Find out.”’

Which, it may be observed in passing, it would be immensely difficult for the State, however statistical, to do.

‘Asides which,’ adds the boy, ‘there ain’t no family of Winkses.’

‘I think there must be.’

‘Yer lie, there ain’t.  The travellers give me the name on account of my getting no settled sleep and being knocked up all night; whereby I gets one eye roused open afore I’ve shut the other.  That’s what Winks means.  Deputy’s the nighest name to indict me by: but yer wouldn’t catch me pleading to that, neither.’

‘Deputy be it always, then.  We two are good friends; eh, Deputy?’

‘Jolly good.’

‘I forgave you the debt you owed me when we first became acquainted, and many of my sixpences have come your way since; eh, Deputy?’

‘Ah!  And what’s more, yer ain’t no friend o’ Jarsper’s.  What did he go a-histing me off my legs for?’

‘What indeed!  But never mind him now.  A shilling of mine is going your way to-night, Deputy.  You have just taken in a lodger I have been speaking to; an infirm woman with a cough.’

‘Puffer,’ assents Deputy, with a shrewd leer of recognition, and smoking an imaginary pipe, with his head very much on one side and his eyes very much out of their places: ‘Hopeum Puffer.’

‘What is her name?’

‘’Er Royal Highness the Princess Puffer.’

‘She has some other name than that; where does she live?’

‘Up in London.  Among the Jacks.’

‘The sailors?’

‘I said so; Jacks; and Chayner men: and hother Knifers.’

‘I should like to know, through you, exactly where she lives.’

‘All right.  Give us ’old.’

A shilling passes; and, in that spirit of confidence which should pervade all business transactions between principals of honour, this piece of business is considered done.

‘But here’s a lark!’ cries Deputy.  ‘Where did yer think ‘Er Royal Highness is a-goin’ to to-morrow morning?  Blest if she ain’t a-goin’ to the KIN-FREE-DER-EL!’  He greatly prolongs the word in his ecstasy, and smites his leg, and doubles himself up in a fit of shrill laughter.

‘How do you know that, Deputy?’

‘Cos she told me so just now.  She said she must be hup and hout o’ purpose.  She ses, “Deputy, I must ’ave a early wash, and make myself as swell as I can, for I’m a-goin’ to take a turn at the Kin-free-der-el!”’  He separates the syllables with his former zest, and, not finding his sense of the ludicrous sufficiently relieved by stamping about on the pavement, breaks into a slow and stately dance, perhaps supposed to be performed by the Dean.

Mr. Datchery receives the communication with a well-satisfied though pondering face, and breaks up the conference.  Returning to his quaint lodging, and sitting long over the supper of bread-and-cheese and salad and ale which Mrs. Tope has left prepared for him, he still sits when his supper is finished.  At length he rises, throws open the door of a corner cupboard, and refers to a few uncouth chalked strokes on its inner side.

‘I like,’ says Mr. Datchery, ‘the old tavern way of keeping scores.  Illegible except to the scorer.  The scorer not committed, the scored debited with what is against him.  Hum; ha!  A very small score this; a very poor score!’

He sighs over the contemplation of its poverty, takes a bit of chalk from one of the cupboard shelves, and pauses with it in his hand, uncertain what addition to make to the account.

‘I think a moderate stroke,’ he concludes, ‘is all I am justified in scoring up;’ so, suits the action to the word, closes the cupboard, and goes to bed.

A brilliant morning shines on the old city.  Its antiquities and ruins are surpassingly beautiful, with a lusty ivy gleaming in the sun, and the rich trees waving in the balmy air.  Changes of glorious light from moving boughs, songs of birds, scents from gardens, woods, and fields—or, rather, from the one great garden of the whole cultivated island in its yielding time—penetrate into the Cathedral, subdue its earthy odour, and preach the Resurrection and the Life.  The cold stone tombs of centuries ago grow warm; and flecks of brightness dart into the sternest marble corners of the building, fluttering there like wings.

Comes Mr. Tope with his large keys, and yawningly unlocks and sets open.  Come Mrs. Tope and attendant sweeping sprites.  Come, in due time, organist and bellows-boy, peeping down from the red curtains in the loft, fearlessly flapping dust from books up at that remote elevation, and whisking it from stops and pedals.  Come sundry rooks, from various quarters of the sky, back to the great tower; who may be presumed to enjoy vibration, and to know that bell and organ are going to give it them.  Come a very small and straggling congregation indeed: chiefly from Minor Canon Corner and the Precincts.  Come Mr. Crisparkle, fresh and bright; and his ministering brethren, not quite so fresh and bright.  Come the Choir in a hurry (always in a hurry, and struggling into their nightgowns at the last moment, like children shirking bed), and comes John Jasper leading their line.  Last of all comes Mr. Datchery into a stall, one of a choice empty collection very much at his service, and glancing about him for Her Royal Highness the Princess Puffer.

The service is pretty well advanced before Mr. Datchery can discern Her Royal Highness.  But by that time he has made her out, in the shade.  She is behind a pillar, carefully withdrawn from the Choir-master’s view, but regards him with the closest attention.  All unconscious of her presence, he chants and sings.  She grins when he is most musically fervid, and—yes, Mr. Datchery sees her do it!—shakes her fist at him behind the pillar’s friendly shelter.

Mr. Datchery looks again, to convince himself.  Yes, again!  As ugly and withered as one of the fantastic carvings on the under brackets of the stall seats, as malignant as the Evil One, as hard as the big brass eagle holding the sacred books upon his wings (and, according to the sculptor’s representation of his ferocious attributes, not at all converted by them), she hugs herself in her lean arms, and then shakes both fists at the leader of the Choir.

And at that moment, outside the grated door of the Choir, having eluded the vigilance of Mr. Tope by shifty resources in which he is an adept, Deputy peeps, sharp-eyed, through the bars, and stares astounded from the threatener to the threatened.

The service comes to an end, and the servitors disperse to breakfast.  Mr. Datchery accosts his last new acquaintance outside, when the Choir (as much in a hurry to get their bedgowns off, as they were but now to get them on) have scuffled away.

‘Well, mistress.  Good morning.  You have seen him?’

I’ve seen him, deary; I’ve seen him!’

‘And you know him?’

‘Know him!  Better far than all the Reverend Parsons put together know him.’

Mrs. Tope’s care has spread a very neat, clean breakfast ready for her lodger.  Before sitting down to it, he opens his corner-cupboard door; takes his bit of chalk from its shelf; adds one thick line to the score, extending from the top of the cupboard door to the bottom; and then falls to with an appetite.


When Forster was just finishing his biography of Dickens, he found among the leaves of one of the novelist’s other manuscripts certain loose slips in his writing, “on paper only half the size of that used for the tale, so cramped, interlined, and blotted as to be nearly illegible.”  These proved, upon examination, to contain a suggested chapter for Edwin Drood, in which Sapsea, the auctioneer, appears as the principal figure, surrounded by a group of characters new to the story.  That chapter, being among the last things Dickens wrote, seems to contain so much of interest that it may be well to reprint it here.—ED.


Wishing to take the air, I proceeded by a circuitous route to the Club, it being our weekly night of meeting.  I found that we mustered our full strength.  We were enrolled under the denomination of the Eight Club.  We were eight in number; we met at eight o’clock during eight months of the year; we played eight games of four-handed cribbage, at eightpence the game; our frugal supper was composed of eight rolls, eight mutton chops, eight pork sausages, eight baked potatoes, eight marrow-bones, with eight toasts, and eight bottles of ale.  There may, or may not, be a certain harmony of colour in the ruling idea of this (to adopt a phrase of our lively neighbours) reunion.  It was a little idea of mine.

Facsimile of a page of the manuscript of “The Mystery of
Edwin Drood”

p. viiA somewhat popular member of the Eight Club, was a member by the name of Kimber.  By profession, a dancing-master.  A commonplace, hopeful sort of man, wholly destitute of dignity or knowledge of the world.

As I entered the Club-room, Kimber was making the remark: “And he still half-believes him to be very high in the Church.”

In the act of hanging up my hat on the eighth peg by the door, I caught Kimber’s visual ray.  He lowered it, and passed a remark on the next change of the moon.  I did not take particular notice of this at the moment, because the world was often pleased to be a little shy of ecclesiastical topics in my presence.  For I felt that I was picked out (though perhaps only through a coincidence) to a certain extent to represent what I call our glorious constitution in Church and State.  The phrase may be objected to by cautious minds; but I own to it as mine.  I threw it off in argument some little time back.  I said: “Our Glorious Constitution in Church and State.”

Another member of the Eight Club was Peartree; also member of the Royal College of Surgeons.  Mr. Peartree is not accountable to me for his opinions, and I say no more of them here than that he attends the poor gratis whenever they want him, and is not the parish doctor.  Mr. Peartree may justify it to the grasp of his mind thus to do his republican utmost to bring an appointed officer into contempt.  Suffice it that Mr. Peartree can never justify it to the grasp of mine.

Between Peartree and Kimber there was a sickly sort of feeble-minded alliance.  It came under my particular notice when I sold off Kimber by auction.  (Goods taken in execution.)  He was a widower in a white under-waistcoat, and slight shoes with bows, and had two daughters not ill-looking.  Indeed the reverse.  Both daughters taught dancing in scholastic establishments for Young Ladies—had done so at Mrs. Sapsea’s; nay, Twinkleton’s—and both, in giving lessons, presented the unwomanly spectacle of having little fiddles tucked under their chins.  In spite of which, the younger one might, if I am correctly informed—I will raise the veil so far as to say I KNOW she might—have soared for life from this degrading taint, but for having the class of mind allotted to what I call the common herd, and being so incredibly devoid of veneration as to become painfully ludicrous.

When I sold off Kimber without reserve, Peartree (as poor as he can hold together) had several prime household lots knocked down to him.  I am not to be blinded; and of course it was as plain to me what he was going to do with them, as it was that he was a brown hulking sort of revolutionary subject who had been in India with the soldiers, and ought (for the sake of society) to have his neck broke.  I saw the lots shortly afterwards in Kimber’s lodgings—through the window—and p. viiiI easily made out that there had been a sneaking pretence of lending them till better times.  A man with a smaller knowledge of the world than myself might have been led to suspect that Kimber had held back money from his creditors, and fraudulently bought the goods.  But, besides that I knew for certain he had no money, I knew that this would involve a species of forethought not to be made compatible with the frivolity of a caperer, inoculating other people with capering, for his bread.

As it was the first time I had seen either of those two since the sale, I kept myself in what I call Abeyance.  When selling him up, I had delivered a few remarks—shall I say a little homily?—concerning Kimber, which the world did regard as more than usually worth notice.  I had come up into my pulpit, it was said, uncommonly like—and a murmur of recognition had repeated his (I will not name whose) title, before I spoke.  I had then gone on to say that all present would find, in the first page of the catalogue that was lying before them, in the last paragraph before the first lot, the following words: “Sold in pursuance of a writ of execution issued by a creditor.”  I had then proceeded to remind my friends, that however frivolous, not to say contemptible, the business by which a man got his goods together, still his goods were as dear to him, and as cheap to society (if sold without reserve), as though his pursuits had been of a character that would bear serious contemplation.  I had then divided my text (if I may be allowed so to call it) into three heads: firstly, Sold; secondly, In pursuance of a writ of execution; thirdly, Issued by a creditor; with a few moral reflections on each, and winding up with, “Now to the first lot” in a manner that was complimented when I afterwards mingled with my hearers.

So, not being certain on what terms I and Kimber stood, I was grave, I was chilling.  Kimber, however, moving to me, I moved to Kimber.  (I was the creditor who had issued the writ.  Not that it matters.)

“I was alluding, Mr. Sapsea,” said Kimber, “to a stranger who entered into conversation with me in the street as I came to the Club.  He had been speaking to you just before, it seemed, by the churchyard; and though you had told him who you were, I could hardly persuade him that you were not high in the Church.”

“Idiot?” said Peartree.

“Ass!” said Kimber.

“Idiot and Ass!” said the other five members.

“Idiot and Ass, gentlemen,” I remonstrated, looking around me, “are strong expressions to apply to a young man of good appearance and address.”  My generosity was roused; I own it.

“You’ll admit that he must be a Fool,” said Peartree.

p. ix“You can’t deny that he must be a Blockhead,” said Kimber.

Their tone of disgust amounted to being offensive.  Why should the young man be so calumniated?  What had he done?  He had only made an innocent and natural mistake.  I controlled my generous indignation, and said so.

“Natural?” repeated Kimber.  “He’s a Natural!”

The remaining six members of the Eight Club laughed unanimously.  It stung me.  It was a scornful laugh.  My anger was roused in behalf of an absent, friendless stranger.  I rose (for I had been sitting down).

“Gentlemen,” I said with dignity, “I will not remain one of this Club allowing opprobrium to be cast on an unoffending person in his absence.  I will not so violate what I call the sacred rites of hospitality.  Gentlemen, until you know how to behave yourselves better, I leave you.  Gentlemen, until then I withdraw, from this place of meeting, whatever personal qualifications I may have brought into it.  Gentlemen, until then you cease to be the Eight Club, and must make the best you can of becoming the Seven.”

I put on my hat and retired.  As I went down stairs I distinctly heard them give a suppressed cheer.  Such is the power of demeanour and knowledge of mankind.  I had forced it out of them.


Whom should I meet in the street, within a few yards of the door of the inn where the Club was held, but the self-same young man whoso cause I had felt it my duty so warmly—and I will add so disinterestedly—to take up.

“Is it Mr. Sapsea,” he said doubtfully, “or is it—”

“It is Mr. Sapsea,” I replied.

“Pardon me, Mr. Sapsea; you appear warm, sir.”

“I have been warm,” I said, “and on your account.”  Having stated the circumstances at some length (my generosity almost overpowered him), I asked him his name.

“Mr. Sapsea,” he answered, looking down, “your penetration is so acute, your glance into the souls of your fellow men is so penetrating, that if I was hardly enough to deny that my name is Poker, what would it avail me?”

I don’t know that I had quite exactly made out to a fraction that his name was Poker, but I daresay I had been pretty near doing it.

“Well, well,” said I, trying to put him at his ease by nodding my head in a soothing way.  “Your name is Poker, and there is no harm in being named Poker.”

p. x“Oh, Mr. Sapsea!” cried the young man, in a very well-behaved manner.  “Bless you for those words!”  He then, as if ashamed of having given way to his feelings, looked down again.

“Come Poker,” said I, “let me hear more about you.  Tell me.  Where are you going to, Poker? and where do you come from?”

“Ah Mr. Sapsea!” exclaimed the young man.  “Disguise from you is impossible.  You know already that I come from somewhere, and am going somewhere else.  If I was to deny it, what would it avail me?”

“Then don’t deny it,” was my remark.

“Or,” pursued Poker, in a kind of despondent rapture, “or if I was to deny that I came to this town to see and hear you, sir, what would it avail me?  Or if I was to deny—”


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