Charles Dickens.

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

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tuitter in snioky trees, as though they called to
one another, " Let us play at country," and
where a few feet of garden mould and a few
yards of gravel enable them to do that refresh-
ing violence to their tiny understandings. More-
over, it is one of those nooks which are legal
nooks ; and it contains a little Hall, with a little
lantern in its roof: to what obstructive purposes
devoted, and at whose expense, this history
knoweth not.

In the days when Cloisterham took offence at
the existence of a railroad afar off, as menacing
that sensitive constitution, the property of us
Britons : the odd fortune of which sacred insti-
tution it is to be in exactly equal degrees croaked
about, trembled for, and boasted of, whatever
happens to anything, anywhere in the world : in
those days no neighbouring architecture of lofty
proportions had arisen to overshadow Staple
Inn. The westering sun bestowed bright glances
on it, and the south-west wind blew into it un-
impeded.

Neither wind nor sun, however, favoured
Staple Inn one December afternoon towards
six o'clock, when it was filled with fog, and
candles shed murky and blurred rays through
the windows of all its then-occupied sets of
chambers ; notably from a set of chambers in a
corner house in the little inner quadrangle, pre-
senting in black and white over its ugly portal
the mysterious inscription :



J T

1747-

In which set of chambers, never having troubled
his head about the inscription, unless to bethink
himself at odd times, on glancing up at it, that
haply it might mean Perhaps John Thomas, or
Perhaps Joe Tyler, sat Mr. Grewgious, writing
by his fire.

Who could have told, by looking at Mr.
Grewgious, whether he had ever known ambi-
tion or disappointment ? He had been bred to
the Bar, and had laid himself out for chamber
practice ; to draw deeds ; " convey the wise it
call," as Pistol says. But Conveyancing and he
had made such a very indifferent marriage of it
that they had separated by consent — if there
can be said to be separation where there has
never been coming together.

No. Coy Conveyancing would not come to
Edwin Drood, 4.



Mr. Grewgious. She was wooed, not won, and
they went their several ways. But an Arbitra-
tion being blown towards him by some unac-
countable wind, and he gaining great credit in
it as one indefatigable in seeking out right and
doing right, a i)retty fat Receivership was next
blown into his i)Ocket by a wind more traceable
to its source. So, by chance, he had found his
niche. Receiver and Agent now to two rich
estates, and deputing their legal business, in an
amount worth having, to a firm of solicitors on
the floor below, he had snuffed out his ambition
(supposing him to have ever lighted it), and
had settled down with his snuffers for the rest
of his life under the dry vine and fig-tree of
P. J. T., who planted in seventeen-forty-seven.

Many accounts and account books, many files
of correspondence, and several strong-boxes gar-
nished Mr. Grewgious's room. They can scarcely
l)e represented as having lumbered it, so con-
scientious and precise was their orderly arrange-
ment. The apprehension of dying suddenly, and
leaving one fact or one figure with any incom-
pleteness or obscurity attaching to it, would have
stretched Mr. Grewgious stone dead any day.
The largest fidelity to a trust was thfe life-blood
of the man. There are sorts of life-blood that
course more quickly, more gaily, more attrac-
tively ; but there is no better sort in circulation.

There was no luxury in his room. Even its
comforts were limited to its being dry and warm,
and having a snug though faded fireside. What
may be called its private life was confined to the
hearth, and an easy-chair, and an old-lasliioned
occasional round table that was brought out
upon the rug after business hours, from a corner
where it elsewise remained turned up like a
shining mahogany shield. Behind it, when stand-
ing thus on the defensive, was a closet, usually
containing something good to drink. An outer
room was the clerk's room ; Mr. Grewgious's
sleeping-room was across the common stair;
and he held some not empty cellarage at the
bottom of the common stair. Three hundred
days in the year, at least, he crossed over to the
hotel in Furnival's Inn for his dinner, and after
dinner crossed back again, to make the most of
these simplicities until it shc/id become broad
business day once more, with P. J. T., date
seventeen-forty-seven.

As Mr. Grewgious sat and wrote by his fire
that afternoon, so did the clerk of Mr. Grewgious
sit and write by his fire. A pale, pufty-faced,
dark-haired person of thirty, with big dark eyes
that wholly wanted lustre, and a dissatisfied
doughy complexion, that seemed to ask to be
sent to the baker's, this attendant was a mys-



50



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN BROOD.



terious being, possessed of some strange power
over Mr. Grewgious. As though he had been
called into existence, like a fabulous Familiar,
by a magic spell which had failed when required
to dismiss him, he stuck tight to Mr. Grewgious's
stool, although Mr. Grewgious's comfort and con-
venience would manifestly have been advanced
by dispossessing him. A gloomy person, with
tangled locks, and a general air of having been
reared under the shadow of that baleful tree of
Java which has given shelter to more lies than
the whole botanical kingdom, Mr. Grewgious,
nevertheless, treated him with unaccountable
consideration.

" Now, Bazzard," said ]\Ir. Grewgious on the
entrance of his clerk : looking up from his
papers as he arranged them for the night :
" what is in the wind besides fog? "

" Mr. Drood," said Bazzard.

" What of him ? "

"Has called," said Bazzard.

" You might have shown him in."

" I am doing it," said Bazzard.

The visitor came in accordingly.

" Dear me ! " said Mr. Grewgious, looking
round his pair of office candles. " I thought
you had called and merely left your name and
gone. How do you do, Mr. Edwin ? Dear
me, you're choking ! "

"It's this fog," returned Edwin; "and it
makes my eyes smart like cayenne pepper."

" Is it really so bad as that ? Pray undo
your wrappers. It's fortunate I have so good
a fire ; but Mr. Bazzard has taken care of
me."

" No, I haven't," said Mr. Bazzard at the
door.

"Ah ! then it follows that I must have taken
care of myself without observing it," said Mr.
Grewgious. " Pray be seated in my chair. No.
I beg ! Coming out of such an atmosphere, in
my chair."

Edwin took the easy-chair in the corner ; and
the fog he had brought in with him, and the fog
he took off with his great-coat and neck-shawl,
was speedily licked up by the eager fire.

" I look," said Edwin, smiling, " as if I had
come to stop."

" By-the-bye," cried Mr. Grewgious; "excuse
my interrupting you ; do stop. The fog may
clear in an hour or two. We can have dinner
in from just across Holborn. You had better
take your ca3'enne pepper here than outside ;
pray stop and dine."

" You are very kind," said Edwin, glancing
about him as though attracted by the notion of
a new and relishing sort of gipsy party.



" Not at all," said Mr. Grewgious ; "yon are
very kind to join issue with a bachelor in cham-
bers, and take pot-luck. And I'll ask," said
Mr. Grewgious, dropping his voice, and s])eak-
ing with a twinkling eye, as if inspired with a
bright thought : " I'll ask Bazzard. He mightn't
like it else. Bazzard ! "

Bazzard reappeared.

" Dine presently with Mr. Drood and me."

" If I am ordered to dine, of course I will,
sir," was the gloomy answer.

" Save the man ! " cried Mr. Grewgious.
" You're not ordered ; you're invited."

" Thank you, sir," said Bazzard ; " in that
case I don't care if I do."

"That's arranged. And perhaps you wouldn't
mind," said Mr. Grewgious, "stepping over to
the hotel in Furnival's, and asking them to send
in materials for laying the cloth. For dinner
we'll have a tureen of the hottest and strongest
soup available, and we'll have the best made-
dish that can be recommended, and we'll have
a joint (such as a haunch of mutton), and we'll
have a goose, or a turkey, or any little stuffed
thing of that sort that may happen to be in the
bill of fare — in short, we'll have whatever there
is on hand."

These liberal directions Mr. Grewgious issued
with his usual air of reading an inventory, or
repeating a lesson, or doing anything else by
rote. Bazzard, after drawing out the round
table, withdrew to execute them.

" I was a little delicate, you see," said Mr.
Grewgious in a lower tone, after his clerk's de-
parture, "about employing him in the foraging
or commissariat department. Because he
mightn't like it."

" He seems to have his own way, sir," re-
marked Edwin.

"His own way?" returned Mr. Grewgious.
"Oh dear no ! Poor fellow, you quite mistake
him. If he had his own way, he wouldn't be
here."

" I wonder where he would be !" Edwin
thought. But he only thought it, because Mr.
Grewgious came and stood himself with his
back to the other corner of the fire, and his
shoulder-blades against the chimney-piece, and
collected his skirts for easy conversation.

" I take it, without having the gift of pro-
phecy, that you have done me the favour of
looking in to mention that you are going down
yonder — where, I can tell you, you are expected
— and to offer to execute any little commission
from me to my charming ward, and perhaps to
sharpen me up a bit in any proceedings? Eh,
Mr. Edwin?"



DINNER FOR THREE.



51



" I called, sir, before going down, as an act

of attention."

•' Of attention ! " said Mr. Grewgious. " Ah !
of course, not of impatience ? "

" Impatience, sir? "

Mr. Grewgious had meant to be arch — not
that he in the remotest degree expressed that
meaning — and had brought himself into scarcely
supportable proximity with the fire, as if to
burn the fullest effect of his archness into him-
self, as other subtle impressions are burnt into
hard metals. But his archness suddenly flying
before the composed face and manner of his
visitor, and only the fire remaining, he started
and rubbed himself.

" I have lately been down yonder," said Mr.
Grewgious, rearranging his skirts ; '' and that
was what I referred to, when I said I could tell
you you are expected."

" Indeed, sir ! Yes ; I knew that Pussy was
looking out for me."

" Do you keep a cat down there ? " asked
Mr. Grewgious.

Edwin coloured a little as he explained : " I
call Rosa Pussy."

" Oh ! really," said Mr. Grewgious, smooth-
ing down his head ; " that's very affable."

Edwin glanced at his face, uncertain whether
or no he seriously objected to the appellation.
But Edwin might as well have glanced at the
face of a clock.

" A pet name, sir," he explained again.

" Umps ! " said Mr. Grewgious with a nod.
But with such an extraordinary compromise be-
tween an unqualified assent and a qualified dis-
sent, that liis visitor was much disconcerted.

" Did PRosa " Edwin began by way of

recovering himself

"PRosa?" repeated Mr. Grewgious.

" I was going to say Pussy, and changed my
mind. — Did she tell you anything about the
Landlesses ? "

"No," said Mr. Grewgious. "What is the
Landlesses ? An estate ? A villa ? A farm ? "

" A brother and sister. The sister is at the
Nuns' House, and has become a great friend
of P "

" PRosa's," Mr. Grewgious struck in with a
fixed face.

" She is a strikingly handsome girl, sir, and I
thought she might have been described to you,
or presented to you, perhaps? "

" Neither," said Mr. Grewgious. "But here
is Bazzard."

Bazzard returned, accompanied by two
waiters — an immovable waiter and a flying
waiter ; and the three brought in with them



as much fog as gave a new roar to the fire. The
flying waiter, who had brought everylhing on
his shoulders, laid the cloth with amazint;
rapidity and dexterity ; while the immovabll-
waiter, who had brought notliing, found fault
with him. The flying waiter then highly
polished all the glasses he had brought, anil
the immovable waiter looked through them.
The flying waiter then flew across Holborn for
the soup, and flew back again, and then took
another flight for the made-dish, and flew back
again, and then took another flight for the joint
and poultry, and flew back again, and between-
whiles took supplementary flights for a great
variety of articles, as it was discovered from time
to time that the immovable waiter had forgotten
them all. But let the flying waiter cleave the
air as he might, he was always reproached on
his return by the immovable waiter for bringing
fog with him, and being out of breath. At the
conclusion of the repast, by which time the
flying waiter was severely blown, the immovable
waiter gathered up the table-cloth under his arm
with a grand air, and, having sternly (not to say
with indignation) looked on at the flying waiter
while he set the clean glasses round, directed a
valedictory glance towards Mr. Grewgious, con-
veying : " Let it be clearly understood between
us that the reward is mine, and that Nil is the
claim of this slave," and pushed the flying
waiter before him out of the room.

It was like a highly-finished miniature paint-
ing representing My Lords of the Circumlocu-
tion Department, Commandership-in-Chief of
any sort, Government. It was quite an edifying
little picture to be hung on the line in the
National Gallery.

As the fog had been the proximate cause of
this sumptuous repast, so the fog served for its
general sauce. To hear the outdoor clerks
sneezing, wheezing, and beating their feet on
the gravel was a zest far surpassing Doctor
Kitchener's. To bid, with a shiver, the unfor-
tunate flying waiter shut the door before he had
opened it, was a condiment of a profounder
flavour than Harvey. And here let it be
noticed, parenthetically, that the leg of this
young man, in its application to the door,
evinced the finest sense of touch : always pre-
ceding himself and tray (with something of an
angling air about it), by some seconds : and
always lingering after he and the tray had dis-
appeared, like Macbeth's leg when accompany-
ing him off the stage with reluctance to the
assassination of Duncan.

The host had gone below to the cellar, and
had brought up bottles of ruby, straw-coloured.



52



THE MYSTER Y OF ED WIN DROOD.



and golden drinks, which had ripened long ago
in lands where no fogs are, and had since lain
slumbering in the shade. Sparkling and tin-
gling after so long a nap, they pushed at their
corks to help the cork-screw (like prisoners
helping rioters to force their gates), and danced
out L;aily. If P.J. T. in seventeen-forty-scvcn,
or in any other year of his period, drank such
wines — then, fjr a certainty, P.J. T. was Pretty
Jolly Too.

Externally, Mr. Grewgious showed no signs
of being mellowed by these glowing vintages.
Instead of his drinking them, they might have
been poured over him in his high-dried snuff
form, and run to waste, for any lights and
shades they caused to flicker over his face.
Neither was his manner influenced. But, in
his wooden way, he had observant eyes for
Edwin ; and when, at the end of dinner, he
motioned Edwin back to his own easy-chair in
the fireside corner, and Edwin sank luxuriously
into it after very brief remonstrance, Mr. Grew-
gious, as he turned his seat round towards the
fire too, and smoothed his head and face, might
have been seen looking at his visitor between
his smoothing fingers.

" Bazzard ! " said Mr. Grewgious, suddenly
turning to him.

" I follow you, sir," returned Bazzard ; who
had done his work of consuming meat and
drink in a workmanlike manner, though mostly
in speechlessness.

" I drink to you, Bazzard ; Mr. Edwin, suc-
cess to Mr. Bazzard ! "

" Success to Mr. Bazzard ! " echoed Edwin
with a totally unfounded appearance of enthu-
siasm, and with the unspoken addition : " What
in, I wonder?"

" And May ! " pursued Mr. Grewgious — " I
am not at liberty to be definite — May ! — my
conversational powers are so very limited, that
I know I shall not come well out of this — May !
— it ought to be put imaginatively, but I have
no imagination — May ! — the thorn of anxiety is
.as nearly the mark as I am likely to get — May
it come out at last ! "

Mr. Bazzard, with a frowning smile at the
fire, put a hand into his tangled locks, as if the
thorn of anxiety were there ; then into his
waistcoat, as if it were there ; then into his
pockets, as if it were there. In all these move-
ments he was closely followed by the eyes of
Edwin, as if that young gentleman expected to
see the thorn in action. It was not produced,
however, and Mr. Bazzard merely said : " I
follow you, sir, and I thank you."

" I am going,*' said Mr. Grewgious, jingling



his glass on the table with one hand, and bend-
ing aside under cover of the other, to whisper
to Edwin, "to drink to my ward. But I put
Bazzard first. He mightn't like it else."

This was said with a mysterious wink; or
what would have been a wink if, in Mr. Grew-
gious's hands, it could have been quick enough.
So Edwin winked responsively, without the least
idea what he meant by doing so.

" And now," said Mr. Grewgious, " I devote
a bumper to the fair and fascinating Miss Rosa.
Bazzard, the fair and fascinating Miss Rosa ! "

" I follow you, sir," said Bazzard, " and I
pledge you ! "

" And so do 1 1 " said Edwin.

" Lord bless me ! " cried Mr. Grewgious,
breaking the blank silence which of course
ensued : though why these pauses should come
upon us when we have performed any small
social rite, not directly inducive of self-examina-
tion or mental despondency, who can tell ? "I
am a particularly Angular man, and yet I fancy
(if I may use the word, not having a morsel of
fancy), that I could draw a picture of a true
lover's state of mind to-night."

"Let us follow you, sir," said Bazzard, "and
have the picture."

"Mr. Edwin will correct it where it's wrong,"
resumed Mr. Grewgious, "and will throw in a
few touches from the life. I dare say it is
wrong in many particulars, and wants many
touches from the life, for I was born a Chip,
and have neither soft sympathies nor soft expe-
riences. Well ! I hazard the guess that the
true lover's mind is completely permeated by
the beloved object of his affections. I hazard
the guess that her dear name is precious to him,
cannot be heard or repeated without emotion,
and is preserved sacred. If he has any distin-
guishing appellation of fondness for her, it is
reserved for her, and is not for common ears.
A name that it would be a privilege to call her
by, being alone with her own bright self, it
would be a liberty, a coldness, an insensibility,
almost a breach of good faith, to flaunt else-
where."

It was wonderful to see Mr. Grewgious sitting
bolt upriglit, with his hands on his knees, con-
tinuously chopping this discourse out of him-
self: much as a charity boy with a very good
memory might get his catechism said : and
evincing no correspondent emotion whatever,
unless in a certain occasional little tingling per-
ceptible at the end of his nose.

" My picture," Mr. Grewgious proceeded,
" goes on to represent (under correction from
you, Mr. Edwin) the true lover as ever im-



MR. GREWGIOUS PAINTS THE PORTRAIT OF A LOVER.



53



patient to be in the presence or vicinity of the
beloved object of his affections ; as caring very
little for his ease in any other society ; and as
constantly seeking that. If I was to say seek-
ing that as a bird seeks its nest, I should make
an ass of myself, because that would trench
upon what 1 understand to be poetry ; and I
am so far from trenching upon poetry at any
time, that I never, to my knowledge, got within
ten thousand miles of it. And I am, besides,
totally unacquainted with the habits of birds,
excei)t the birds of Staple Inn, who seek their
nests on ledges, and in gutter-pipes, and chim-
ney-pots, not constructed for them by the
beneficent hand of Nature. I beg, therefore,
to be understood as foregoing the bird's nest.
But my picture does represent the true lover as
having no existence separable from that of the
beloved object of his affections, and as living at
once a doubled life and a halved life. And, if
I do not clearly express what I mean by that,
it is either for the reason that, having no con-
versational powers, I cannot express what I
mean, or that, having no meaning, I do not
mean what I fail to express. Which, to the
best of my belief, is not the case."

Edwin had turned red and turned white as
certain points of this picture came into the
light. He now sat looking at the fire, and bit
his lip.

•' The speculations of an Angular man," re-
sumed Mr. Grewgious, still sitting and speaking
exactly as before, " are probably erroneous on
so globular a topic. But I figure to myself
(subject, as before, to Mr. Edwin's correction),
that there can be no coolness, no lassitude, no
doubt, no indifference, no half fire and half
smoke state of mind, in a real lover. Pray am
I at all near the mark in my picture ? "

As abrupt in his conclusion as in his com-
mencement and progress, he jerked this inquiry
at Edwin, and stopped when one might have
supposed him in the middle of his oration.

" I should say, sir," stammered Edwin, " as
you refer the question to me "

" Yes," said Mr. Grewgious, " I refer it to
you, as an authority."

" — I should say, then, sir," Edwin went on,
embarrassed, " that the picture you have drawn
is generally correct ; but I submit that perhaps
you may be rather hard upon the unlucky
lover."

" Likely so," assented Mr. Grewgious, " likely
so. I am a hard man in the grain."

"He may not show," said Edwin, "all he
feels ; or he may not "

There he stopped so long to find the rest of



his sentence, that Mr. Grewgious rendered his
difficulty a thousand times the greater by unex-
pectedly striking in with :

" No, to be sure ; he may not I "

After that, they all sat silent ; the silence of
Mr. Bazzard being occasioned by slumber.

" His responsibility is very great, though,"
said Mr. Grewgious at length, with his eyes on
the fire.

Edwin nodded assent, with his eyes on the
fire.

" And let him be sure that he trifles with no
one," said Mr. Grewgious ; " neither with him-
self nor with any other."

Edwin bit his lip again, and still sat looking
at the fire.

" He must not make a plaything of a treasure.
Woe betide him if he does ! Let him take that
well to heart," said Mr. Grewgious.

Though he said these things in short sen-
tences, much as the supposititious charity boy
just now referred to might have repeated a verse
or two from the Book of Proverbs, there was
something dreamy (for so literal a man) in the
way in which he now shook his right forefinger
at the live coals in the grate, and again fell
silent.

But not for long. As he sat upright and stiff
in his chair, he suddenly rapped his knees, like
the carved image of some queer Joss or other
coming out of its reverie, and said : " We must
finish this bottle, Mr. Edwin. Let me help ycu.
I'll help Bazzard too, though he is asleep. He
mightn't like it else."

He helped them both, and helped himself,
and drained his glass, and stood it bottom
upward on the table, as though he had just
caught a blue-bottle in it.

" And now, Mr. Edwin," he proceeded, wiping
his mouth and hands upon his handkerchief:
" to a little piece of business. You received
from me, the other day, a certified copy of Miss
Rosa's father's will. You knew its contents
before, but you received it from me as a matter
of business. I should have sent it to Mr.
Jasper, but for Miss Rosa's wishing it to come
straight to you in preference. You received it?"

" Quite safely, sir."

" You should have acknowledged its receipt,"
said Mr. Grewgious ; " business being business
all the world over. However, you did not."

"I meant to have acknowledged it when I
first came in this evening, sir."

" Not a business-like acknowledgment," re-
turned Mr. Grewgious : " however, let that
pass. Now, in that document, you have ob-
served a few words of kindly allusion to its



54



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.



being left to me to discharge a little trust, con-
fided to me in conversation, at such time as I in
my discretion may think best."

" Yes, sir."

" Mr. Edwin, it came into my mind just now,
when I was looking at the fire, that I could, m
my discretion, acquit myself of that trust at no
better time than the present. Favour me with
your attention half a minute."

He took a bunch of keys from his pocket,



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 10 of 103)