Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 1 of 103)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 103)
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The Dawn i

A Dean, and a Chapter also • • • 3

The Nuns' House 8

Mr. Sapsea I4

JNIr. Durdles and Friend . . • . l8

Philanthropy in Elinor Canon Corner . . 21

More Confidences than One ... 25

Daggers drawn ...... 30

Birds in the Bush 35

Smoothing the Way 42

A Picture and a Ring ..... 48

A Night with Durdles • • • • 55


XIII. Both at their best 62

XIV. When shall these Three meet again ? . 67
XV. Impeached 73

XVI. Devoted 77

XVII. Philanthropy, Professional and Unprofes-
sional ....... 82

XV-III. A Settler in Cloisterham .... 89

XIX. Shadow on the Sun-dial .... 93

XX. A Flight 97

XXI. A Recognition 102

XXII. A Gritty State of Things comes on . . 104

XXIII. The Dawn again 112


The Long Voyage . . . . . -123

The Begging-Letter Writer 128

A Child's Dream of a Star ..... 131

Our English Watering-Place .... 132

Our French Watering-Placa 136

Bill-Sticking 143

"Births. Mrs. Meek, of a Son" .... 148

Lying Awake 151

The Poor Relation's Story ..... 154

The Child's Story ....... 160

The School-Boy's Story 161

Nobody's Story . . . . . . .166

The Ghost of Art 168

Out of Town 172

Out of the Season 176

A Poor Man's Tale of a Patent .... 179

The Noble Savage 182

A Flight 185

The Detective Police 190

Three " Detective " Anecdotes .... 199

On Duty with Inspector Field .... 203

Down with the Tide 210

A Walk in a Workhouse 214

Prince Bull. A Fairy Tale 218

A Plated Article 220

Our Honourable Fiiend ..... 224

Our School 227

Our Vestry 231

Our Bore 235

A Monument of French Folly .... 238

A Christmas Tree ....... 244

Master Humphrey's Clock 253

Hunted Down 307

Holiday Romance 318

George Sil-verman's Explanation 33S

1 f«Vr»



Up the River


"In another room were several ugly old women CROUCHrNG, WITCH-LIKE, ROUND A HEARTH,






In the Court .

Under the Trees

At the Piano

On Dangerous Ground

^Ir. Crisparkle is overpaid

Durdles cautions Mr. Sapsea against Boasting

" Good-bye, Rosebud, darling ! " .

;Mr.- Grewgious has h:s Suspicions .

Jasper's Sacrifices .....

Mr. Grewgious experiences a new Sensation .

Sleeping it off

" The moment comes, the fire is dying — and the
child is dead " . ...

"Oh, git along with you, sir, \{ yoii please; me
and Mrs. Bigby don't want no male parties
here ! " .

" Look at the snivelling milksop ! " said my uncle

"Whether he was the Vicar, or Moses, or Mr.
Burchill, or the Squire, or a conglomeration of
all four, I knew not ''

" Are you from the country, young man ?"
I says, "I am "








" In the midst of the kitchen .... sits a young,
modest, gentle-looking creature, with a beauti-
ful child in her lap " 209

" Mr. Blinkins, are you ill, sir .? " . . . 232

" He took her in his arms, and told her it was fancy "' 249

" At such times, or when the shouts of straggling
brawlers met her ear, the Bowyer's daughter
would look timidly back at Hugh, beseeching
him to draw nearer " 253

"As he sat upon a low seat beside my wife, I
would peer at him for hours together Irom
behind a tree" ...... 273

" Vith these vords he rushes into the shop, breaks
the dummy's nose vith a blow of his curlin'-
irons, melts him down at the parlour fire,
and never smiles artervards " .... 296

" You shall see me once again in the body, when
you are tried for your life. You shall see me
once again in the spirit, when the cord is round
yourneck, and the crowd are crj-ingagainstyou" 307

" With a look of scorn, she put into my hand a bit
of paper, and took another partner. On the
paper was pencilled, * Heavens ! Can I write
the word } Is my husband a cow .' ' " . • 31S

" What is the matter .'" asked Brother Hawkyard.
" Ay ! what is the matter ? '' asked Brother

Gimblet 335

Tail-piece . 348






N ancient English Cathedral Tower?
How can the ancient English cathe-
dral tower be here? The well-
known massive grey square tower of
its old cathedral ? How can that
be here ? There is no spike of
rusty iron in the air, between the eye
and it, from any point of the real pros-
pect. What is the spike that intervenes, and
who has set it up ? Maybe it is set up by the
Sultan's orders for the impaling of a horde of
Turkish '-obbers, one by one. It is so, for
cymbals clash, and the Sultan goes by to his
palace in long procession. Ten thousand scimi-
tars flash in the sun -light, and thrice ten thou-
Edwin Drood, I.

sand dancing girls strew flowers. Then, follow
white elephants caparisoned in countless gor-
geous colours, and infinite in number and
attendants. Still the Cathedral Tower rises in
the background, where it cannot be, and still no
writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay ! Is
the spike so low a thing as the rusty spike on
the top of a post of an old bedstead that has
tumbled all awry ? Some vague period of drowsy
laughter must be devoted to the consideration
of this possibihty.

Shaking from head to foot, the man whose
scattered consciousness has thus fantastically
pieced itself together, at length rises, supports
his tremblin_g frame upon his arms, and looks
around. He is in the meanest and closest of
small rooms. Through the ragged window cur-
tain the light of early day steals in from a mise-


rable court. He lies, dressed, across a large
unseemly bed, upon a bedstead that has indeed
given way under the weight upon it. Lying,
also dressed, and also across the bed, not long-
wise, are a Chinaman, a Lascar, and a haggard
woman. Tlie two first are in a sleep or stupor;
the last is blowing at a kind of pipe, to kindle
it. And as she blows, and, shading it with her
lean hand, concentrates its red spark of light, it
serves in the dim morning as a lamp to show
him what he sees of her.

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

He looks about him, with his hand to his

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

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

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

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

He rises unsteadily from the bed, lays the
pipe upon the hearth-stone, draws back the
ragged curtain, and looks with repugnance at
his three companions. He notices that the
woman has opium-smoked herself into a strange

likeness of the Chinaman. His form of cheek,
eye, and temple, and his colour, are repeated in
her. Said Chinaman convulsively wrestles with
one of his many Gods or Devils, perhaps, and
snarls horribly. The Lascar laughs and dribbles
at the mouth. The hostess is still.

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

He bends down his ear to listen to her

" Unintelligible ! "

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

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

" What do you say ? "

A watchful pause.

"Unintelligible !"

Slowly loosening his grasp as he listens to the

incoherent jargon with an attentive fro\m, he

'irns to the Lascar, and fairly drags him forth

on the floor. As he falls, the Lascar starts

CO a half-risen attitude, glares with his eyes,
shes about him fiercely with his arms, and
iraws a phantom knife. It then becomes appa-
rent that the woman has taken possession of
this knife, for safety's sake ; for, she too starting
up, and restraining and expostulating with him,
the knife is visible in her dress, not in his,
when they drowsily drop back, side by side.

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


in bed in a black hutch beneath the stairs, and
passes out.

That same afternoon, the massive grey square
tower of an old cathedral rises before the sight
of a jaded traveller. The bells are going for
daily vesper service, and he must needs attend
it, one would say, from his haste to reach the
open cathedral door. The choir are getting on
their sullied white robes in a hurry, when he
arrives among them, gets on his own robe, and
falls into the procession filing in to service.
Then, the sacristan locks the iron-barred gates
that divide the sanctuary from the chancel, and
all of the procession, having scuttled into their
places, hide their faces ; and then the intoned

words, "When the Wicked Man " rise

among groins of arches and beams of roof,
awakening muttered thunder.



TrHOSOEVER has observed that
ff^^WWlllm. ^^^^^^ ^'^'^ clerical bird, the rook,
wn\w|^^fl|^ may perhaps have noticed that
/i\w^>^\T/N3j y^\^QT^ he wings his way homeward
towards nightfall, in a sedate and
clerical company, two rooks will
suddenly detach themselves from the rest,
will retrace their flight for some distance,
and will there poise and linger ; conveying to
mere men the fancy that it is of some occult
importance to the body politic that this artful
couple should pretend to have renounced co''^
nection with it.

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

Not only is the day waning, but the year.
The low sun is fiery, and yet cold, behind the
monastery ruin, and the Virginia creeper on the
cathedral wall has showered half its deep red
leaves down on the pavement. There has been
rain this afternoon, and a wintry shudder goes
among the little pools on the cracked uneven
flagstones, and through the giant elm-trees as
they shed a gust of tears. Their fallen leaves
lie strewn thickly about. Some of these leaves,
in a timid rush, seek sanctuary within the low
arched cathedral door ; but two men coming out

resist them, and cast them forth again with their
feet \ this done, one of the two locks the door
with a goodly key, and the other flits away with
a folio music-book.

" Mr. Jasper was that, Tope?"

" Yes, Mr. Uean."

" He has stayed late."

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

"Say 'taken,' Tope — to the Dean," the
younger rook interposes in a low tone with this
touch of correction, as who should say : " You
may offer bad grammar to the laity, or the hum-
bler clergy, not to the Dean."

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

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

" Taken, sir," Tope deferentially murmurs.

" —Poorly, Tope ? "

" Why, sir, Mr. Jasper was that breathed "

" I wouldn't say ' That breathed,' Tope," Mr.
Crisparkle interposes with the same touch as
before. " Not EngHsh — to the Dean."

" Breathed to that extent," the Dean (not un-
flattered by this indirect homage) condescend-
ingly remarks, "would be preferable."

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

" And Mr. Jasper has gone home quite him-
self, has he ?" asked the Dean.

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

They all three look towards an old stone


gatehouse crossing the Close, with an arched
thoroughfare passing beneath it. Through its
latticed window a fire shines out upon the fast-
darkening scene, involving in shadow the pend-
ent masses of ivy and creeper covering the
building's front. As the deep cathedral bell
strikes the hour, a ripple of wind goes through
these at their distance, like a rii)ple of the
solemn sound that hums through tomb and
tower, broken niche and defaced statue, in the
pile close at hand.

" Is Mr. Jasper's nephew with him ? " the
Dean asks.

'' No, sir," replied the verger, " but expected.
'J'hero's his own solitary shadow betwixt his two
windows — the one looking this way, and the
one looking down into the High Street — draw-
ing his own curtains now."

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

" Certainly, ]\Ir. Dean. And tell him that
you had the kindness to desire to know how he

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

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

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

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

" Oh, it was nothing, nothing ! "

" You look a little worn."

" Do I ? Oh ! I don't think so. What is

better, I don't feel so. Tope has made too
much of it, I suspect. It's his trade to make the
most of everything appertaining to the cathedral,
you know."

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

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

" I'm glad to hear that you expect young

" I expect the dear fellow every moment."

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

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

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

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

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

" My dear Edwin ! "

" My dear Jack ! So glad to see you ! "

" Get off your great-coat, bright boy, and sit
down here in your own corner. Your feet are


not wet ? Pull your boots off. Uo pull your
boots off."

" My deai Jack, I am as dry as a bone.
Don't moddley-coddley, there's a good fellow.
I like anything better than being moddloy-

With the check upon him of being unsympa-
thetically restrained in a genial outburst of en-
thusiasm, Mr. Jasper stands still, and looks on
intently at the young fellow, divesting himself
of his outward coat, hat, gloves, and so forth.
Once for all, a look of intentness and intensity
— a look of hungry, exacting, watchful, and yet
devoted affection — is always, now and ever
afterwards, on the Jasper face whenever the
Jasper face is addressed in this direction. And,
whenever it is so addressed, it is never, on this
occasion or on any other, dividedly addressed ;
it is always concentrated.

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

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

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

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

" Not mine, you know ? No ; not mine, /
know ! Pussy's I "

Fixed as the look the young fellow meets is,
there is yet in it some strange power of sud-
denly including the sketch over the chimney-

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

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

" And, Lord ! here's Mrs. Tope ! " cries the
boy. " Lovelier than ever ! "

" Never you mind me, Master Edwin," retorts
the verger's wife ; " I can take care of myself."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

" Why ? "

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

" Why not ? "

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

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

" Hip, hip, hip, and nine times nine, and one

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 103)