Charles Dickens.

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

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everybody's life, and become, in effect, the last
man. He had been brought down to Cloister-
ham, from London, by an eminent Philan-
thropist, and why ? Because that Philanthropist
had expressly declared : " I owe it to my fellow-
creatures that he should be, in the words of
Bentham, where he is the cause of the greatest
danger to the smallest number."

These dropping shots from the blunderbusses
of blunder-headedness might not have hit him
in a vital place. But he had to stand against a
trained and well-directed fire of arms of pre-
cision too. He had notoriously threatened the
lost young man, and had, according to the show-
ing of his own faithful friend and tutor who
strove so hard for him, a cause of bitter ani-
mosity (created by himself, and stated by him-
self) against that ill-starred fellow. He had
armed himself with an offensive weapon for the
fatal night, and he had gone off early in the
morning, after making preparations for departure.
He had been found with traces of blood on
him ; truly, they might have been wholly caused
as he represented, but they might not, also. On
a search-warrant being issued for the examina-
tion of his room, clothes, and so forth, it was
discovered that he had destroyed all his papers,
and rearranged all his possessions, on the very
afternoon of the disappearance. The watch
found at the Weir was challenged by the
jeweller as one he had wound and set for Edwin
Drood, at twenty minutes past two on that
same afternoon ; and it had run down before
being cast into the water; and it was the
jeweller's positive opinion that it had never been
rewound. This would justify the hypothesis
that the watch was taken from him not long
after he left Mr. Jasper's house at midnight, in
company with the last person seen with him,
and that it had been thrown away after being
retained some hours. Why thrown away? If
he had been murdered, and so artfully disfigured,
or concealed, or both, as that the murderer
hoped identification to be impossible, except
from something that he wore, assuredly the
murderer would seek to remove from the body
the most lasting, the best known, and the most
easily recognisable things upon it. Those things
would be the watch and shirt-pin. As to his
opportunities of casting them into the river, if
he were the object of these suspicions, they were
easy. For, he had been seen by many persons
wandering about on that side of the city — in-
deed, on all sides of it — in a miserable and seem-
ingly half-distracted manner. As to the choice of
the spot, obviously such criminating evidence had
better take its chance of being found anywhere,
Edwin Drood, 6.

rather than upon himself, or in his possession.
Concerning the reconciliatory nature of the ap-
jwinted meeting between the two young men,
very little could be made of that in young Land-
less's favour ; for it distinctly appeared that the
meeting originated, not with him, but with Mr.
Crisparkle, and that it had been urged on by
Mr. Crisparkle ; and who could say how un-
willingly, or in what ill-conditioned mood, his
enforced pupil had gone to it ? The more his
case was looked into, the weaker it became in
every point. Even the broad suggestion that
the lost young man hatl abscondetl was ren-
dered additionally improbable on the showing
of the young lady from whom he had so lately
parted ; for, what did she say, with great ear-
nestness and sorrow, when interrogated ? That
he had, expressly and enthusiastically, planned
with her that he would await the arrival of her
guardian, Mr. Grewgious. And yet, be it ob-
served, he disappeared before that gentleman

On the suspicions thus urged and supported
Neville was detained, and re-detained, and the
search was pressed on every hand, and Jasper
laboured night and day. But nothing more was
found. No discovery being made which proved
the lost man to be dead, it at length became
necessary to release the person suspected of
having made away with him. Neville was set
at large. Then, a consequence ensued which
Mr. Crisparkle had too well foreseen. Neville
must leave the place, for the place shunned him
and cast him out. Even had it not been so,
the dear old china shepherdess would have
worried herself to death with fears for her son,
and with general trepidation occasioned by their
having such an inmate. Even had that not
been so, the authority to which the Minor Canon
deferred ofticially would have settled the point.

"Mr. Crisparkle," quoth the Dean, " human
justice may err, but it must act according to its-
lights. The days of taking sanctuary are past.
This young man must not take sanctuary with us."

" You mean that he must leave my house, sir?"

" Mr. Crisparkle," returned the prudent Dean,.
" I claim no authority in your house. I merely
confer with you on the painful necessity you find,
yourself under of depriving this young man of the
great advantages of your counsel and instruction."

" It is very lamentable, sir," Mr. Crisparkle

" Very much so," the Dean assented.

" And if it be a necessity " Mr. Crisparkle


" As you unfortunately find it to be," returned
the Dean.



Mr. Crisparkle bowed submissively. " It is
hard to prejudge his case, sir, but I am sensible
that "

" Just so. Perfectly. As you say, Mr. Cri-
sparkle," interposed the Dean, nodding his head
smoothly, " there is nothing else to be done.
No doubt, no doubt. There is no alternative,
as your good sense has discovered."

" I am entirely satisfied of his perfect inno-
cence, sir, nevertheless."

'• We-e-ell ! " said the Dean in a more confi-
dential tone, and slightly glancing around him.
" I would not say so, generally. Not generally.

Enough of suspicion attaches to him to

No, I think I would not say so, generally."

Mr. Crisjiarkle bowed again.

" It does not become us, perhaps," pursued
the Dean, " to be partisans. Not partisans. We
clergy keep our hearts warm and our heads
cool, and we hold a judicious middle course."

" I hope you do not object, sir, to my having
stated in public, emphatically, that he will re-
appear here whenever any new suspicion may
be awakened, or any new circumstance may
come to light in this extraordinary matter ? "

" Not at all," returned the Dean. " And yet,
do you know, I don't think," with a very nice
and neat emphasis on those two words : " I
doiit think I would state it emphatically. State
it? Ye-e-es ! But emphatically? No-o-o. I
think not. In point of fact, Mr. Crisparkle,
keeping our hearts warm and our heads cool,
we clergy need do nothing emphatically."

So Minor Canon Row knew Neville Landless
no more : and he went whithersoever he would,
or could, with a blight upon his name and fame.

It was not until then that John Jasper silently
resumed his place in the choir. Haggard and
red-eyed, his hopes plainly had deserted him,
his sanguine mood was gone, and all his worst
misgivings had come back. A day or two after-
wards, while unrobing, he took his Diary from
a pocket of his coat, turned the leaves, and with
an impressive look, and without one spoken
word, handed this entry to Mr. Crisparkle to
read :

" My dear boy is murdered. The discovery of the
watch and shirt-pin convinces me that he was murdered
that night, and that his jewelleiy was taken from him to
prevent identification by its means. All the delusive
hopes I had founded on his separation from his betrothed
■wile I give to the winds. They perish before this fatal
discovery. I now swear, and record the oath on this
page, That I never more will discuss this mysterj' with any
human creature until I hold the clue to it in my hand.
That I never will relax in my secrecy or in my search.
That I will fasten the crime of the murder of my dear
dead boy upon the murderer. And, That I devote
myself to his destruction."



I^ULL half a year had come and gone,
and Mr. Crisparkle sat in a waiting-
room in the London chief offices of
the Haven of Philanthropy until he
could have audience of Mr. Honey-
In his college days of athletic exer-
cises, Mr. Crisparkle had known profes-
sors of the Noble Art of fisticufts, and had
attended two or three of their gloved gatherings.
He had now an opportunity of observing that as
to the phrenological formation of the backs of
their heads, the Professing Philanthropists were
uncommonly like the Pugilists. In the develop-
ment of all those organs which constitute, or
attend, a propensity to "pitch into" your fellow-
creatures, the Philanthropists were remarkably
favoured. There were several Professors passing
in and out, with exactly the aggressive air upon
them of being ready for a turn-up with any
Novice who might happen to be on hand, that
Mr. Crisparkle well remembered in the circles
of the Fancy. Preparations were in progress
for a moral little Mill somewhere on the rural
circuit, and other Professors were backing this
or that Heavy-Weight as good for such or such
speech -making hits, so very much after the
manner of the sporting publicans, that the in-
tended Resolutions might have been Rounds.
In an official manager of these displays much
celebrated for his platform tactics, Mr. Crisparkle
recognised (in a suit of black) the counterpart
of a deceased benefactor of his species, an emi-
nent public character, Once known to fame as
Frosty-faced Fogo, who in days of yore super-
intended the formation of the magic circle with
the ropes and stakes. There were only three
conditions of resemblance wanting between these
Professors and those. Firstl)', the Philanthro-
pists were in very bad training : much too fleshy,
and presenting, both in face and figure, a super-
abundance of what is known to Pugihstic Ex-
perts as Suet Pudding. Secondly, the Philan-
thropists had not the good temper of the Pugilists,
and used worse language. Thirdly, their fighting
code stood in great need of revision, as empower-
ing them not only to bore their man to the ropes,
but to bore him to the confines of distraction ;
also to hit him when he was down, hit him any-
where and anyhow, kick him, stamp upon him,
gouge him, and maul him behind his back with-
out mercy. In these last particulars the Pro-



fessors of the Noble Art were much nobler than
the Professors of Philanthropy.

Mr. Crisparkle v/as so completely lost in
musing on these similarities and dissimilarities,
at the same time watching the crowd which
came and went by, always, as it seemed, on
errands of antagonistically snatching something
from somebody, and never giving anything to
anN'bod}-, that his name was called before he
heard it. On his at length responding, he was
shown by a miserably shabby and under-paid
stipendiary Philanthropist (who could hardly
have done worse if he had taken service with a
declared enemy of the human race) to Mr.
Honeythunder's room.

" Sir," said ]\Ir. Honeythunder in his tremen-
dous voice, like a schoolmaster issuing orders
to a boy of whom he had a bad opinion, " sit

Mr. Crisparkle seated himself.

Mr. Honeythunder having signed the remain-
ing few score of a itw thousand circulars, calling
upon a corresponding number of families without
means to come forward, stump up instantly, and
be Philanthropists, or go to the Devil, another
shabby stipendiary Philanthropist (highly dis-
interested, if in earnest) gathered these into a
basket and walked off with them.

" Now, Mr. Crisparkle," said Mr. Honey-
thunder, turning his chair half round towards
him when they were alone, and squaring his
arms with his hands on his knees, and his brows
knitted, as if he added, I am going to make
short work of yoii : " now, Mr. Crisparkle, we
entertain different views, you and I, sir, of the
sanctity of human life."

" Do we ? " returned the Minor Canon.

" We do, sir."

" Might I ask you," said the Minor Canon,
" what are your views on that subj ect ? "

" That human life is a thing to be held sacred,

" Might I ask you," pursued the Minor Canon
as before, " what you suppose to be my views
on that subject ?"

" By George, sir ! " returned the Philanthro-
pist, squaring his arms still more, as he frowned
on Mr, Crisparkle, " they are known to your-

" Readily admitted. But you began by saying
that we took different views, you know. There-
fore (or you could not say so) you must have
set up some views as mine. Pray what views
/lave you set up as mine ? "

" Here is a man — and a young man," said
Mr. Honeythunder, as if that made the matter
infinitely worse, and he could have easily borne

the loss of an old one, " swept off the face of
the earth by a deed of violence. What do you
call that ? "

" Murder," said the Minor Canon.

" What do you call the doer of that deed, sir ? "

" A murderer," said the Minor Canon.

" I am glad to hear you admit so much, sir,"
retorted Mr. Honeythunder in his most offen-
sive manner ; " and I candidly tell you that I
didn't expect it." Here he lowered heavily at
Mr. Crisparkle again.

'■' Be so good as to explain what you mean by
those very unjustifiable expressions."

" I don't sit here, sir," returned the Philan-
thropist, raising his voice to a roar, " to be

" As the only other person present, no one
can possibly know that better than I do," re-
turned the Minor Canon very quietly. " But I
interrupt your explanation."

" Murder ! " proceeded Mr. Honeythunder in
a kind of boisterous reverie, with his platform
folding of his arms, and his platform nod of
abhorrent reflection after each short sentiment
of a word. " Bloodshed ! Abel ! Cain ! I hold
no terms with Cain. I repudiate with a shudder
the red hand when it is offered me."

Instead of instantly leaping into his chair and
cheering himself hoarse, as the Brotherhood in
public meeting assembled would infallibly have
done on this cue, Mr. Crisparkle merely re-
versed the quiet crossing of his legs, and said
mildly : " Don't let me interrupt your explana-
tion — when you begin it."

" The Commandments say, no murder. NO
murder, sir ! " proceeded Mr. Honeythunder,
platformally pausing as if he took Mr. Crisjxirkle
to task for having distinctly asserted that they
said : You may do a little murder, and then
leave off.

"And they also say, you shall bear no false
witness," observed Mr. Crisparkle.

" Enough ! " bellowed Mr. Honeythunder with
a solemnity and severity that would have brought
the house down at a meeting. " E — e — nough !
My late wards being now of age, and I being
released from a trust which I cannot contem-
plate without a thrill of horror, there are the
accounts which you have undertaken to accept
on their behalf, and there is a statement of the
balance which you have undertaken to receive,
and which you cannot receive too soon. And
let me tell you, sir, I wish that, as a man and a
i\Iinor Canon, you were better employed," with
a nod. " Better employed,"' with another nod.
" Bet — ter em — ployed ! " with another and the
three nods added up.



Mr. Crisparkle rose; a little heated in the
face, but with ])erfcct command of himself.

" Mr. Honeythunder," he said, taking up the
papers referred to, " my being better or worse
employed than I am at present is a matter of
taste and opinion. You might think me better
employed in enrolling myself a member of your

" Ay, indeed, sir ! " retorted Mr. Honey-
thunder, shaking his head in a threatening
manner. " It would have been better for you
if you had done that long ago ! "

" I think otherwise."

" Or," said Mr. Honeythunder, shaking his
head again, " I might think one of your pro-
fession better employed in devoting himself to
the discovery and punishment of guilt than in
leaving that duty to be undertaken by a layman."

" I may regard my profession from a point
of view which teaches me that its first duty is
towards those who are in necessity and tribula-
tion, who are desolate and oppressed," said Mr.
Crisparkle. " However, as I have quite clearly
satisfied myself that it is no part of my profes-
sion to make professions, I say no more of that.
But I owe it to Mr. Neville, and to Mr. Neville's
sister (and in a much lower degree to myself),
to say to you that I kno7u I was in the full pos-
session and understanding of Mr, Neville's mind
and heart at the time of this occurrence; and
that, without in the least colouring or concealing
what was to be deplored in him and required to
be corrected,^ feel certain that his tale is true.
Feeling that certainty, I befriend him. As long
as that certainty shall last, I will befriend him.
And, if any consideration could shake me in
this resolve, I shoultl be so ashamed of myself
for my meanness, that no man's good opinion
— no, nor no woman's — so gained, could com-
pensate me for the loss of my own."

Good fellow ! manly fellow ! And he was so
modest, too. There was no more self-assertion
in the Minor Canon than in the school-boy who
had stood in the breezy playing-fields keeping a
wicket. He was simply and staunchly true to
his duty alike in the large case and in the small.
So all true souls ever are. So every true soul
ever was, ever is, and ever will be. There is
nothing little to the really great in spirit.

"Then who do you make out did the deed?"
asked Mr. Honeythunder, turning on him

" Heaven forbid," said Mr. Crisparkle, " that
in my desire to clear one man I should lightly
criminate another ! I accuse no one."

" Tcha ! " ejaculated Mr. Honeythunder with
great disgust; for this was by no means the

principle on which the Philanthropic Brother-
hood usually proceeded. "And, sir, you arc
not a disinterested witness, we must bear in

" How am I an interested one ? " inquired
Mr. Crisparkle, smiling innocently, at a loss to

" There was a certain stipend, sir, paid to
you for your pupil, which may have warped
your judgment a bit," said Mr. Honeythunder

"Perhaps I expect to retain it still?" Mr.
Crisparkle returned, enlightened. '' Do you
mean that too ? "

" Well, sir," returned the professional Philan-
thropist, getting up and thrusting his hands dowiii
into his trousers pockets, " I don't go about
measuring people for caps. If people find I have
any about me that fit 'em, they can put 'em on
and wear 'em, if they like. That's their look-
out : not mine."

Mr. Crisparkle eyed him with a just indigna-
tion, and took him to task thus :

" Mr. Honeythunder, I hoped when I came
in here that I might be under no necessity of
commenting on the introduction of platform
manners or platform manoeuvres among the de-
cent forbearances of private life. But you have
given me such a specimen of both, that I should
be a fit subject for both if I remained silent
respecting them. They are detestable."

" They don't s\i\t you, I dare say, sir."

" They are," repeated Mr. Crisparkle, without
noticing the interruption, "detestable. They
violate equally the justice that should belong to
Christians, and the restraints that should belong
to gentlemen. You assume a great crime to
have been committed by one whom I, acquainted
with the attendant circumstances, and having
numerous reasons on my side, devoutly believe
to be innocent of it. Because I difter from you
on that vital point, what is your platform re-
source? Instantly to turn upon me, charging
that I have no sense of the enormity of the
crime itself, but am its aider and abettor ! So,
another time — taking me as representing your
opponent in other cases — you set up a platform
credulity; amoved and seconded and carried-
unanimously profession of faith in some ridicu-
lous delusion or mischievous imposition. I
decline to believe it, and you fall back upon
your platform resource of proclaiming that I
believe nothing; that because I will not bow
down to a false god of your making, I deny the
true God ! Another time you make the plat-
form discovery that war is a calamity, and you
propose to abolish it by a string of twisted reso-



lutlons tossed into the air like the tail of a kite.
I do not aihnit the discovery to be yours in the
least, and I have not a grain of faith in your
remedy. Again, your platform resource of re-
presenting me as revelling in the horrors of a
battle-field like a fiend incarnate ! Another time,
in another of your undiscriminating platform
rushes, you would punish the sober for the
drunken. I claim consideration for the comfort,
convenience, and refreshment of the sober; and
you presently make platform proclamation that
I have a depraved desire to turn Heaven's crea-
tures into swine and wild beasts ! In all such
cases your movers, and your seconders, and
your supporters — your regular Professors of all
degrees, run amuck like so many mad Malays ;
habitually attributing the lowest and basest
motives with the utmost recklessness (let me
call your attention to a recent instance in your-
self for which you should blush), and quoting
figures which you know to be as wilfully one-
siiled as a statement of any complicated account
that should be all Creditor side and no Debtor,
or all Debtor side and no Creditor. Therefore
it is, IVIr. Honeythunder, that I consider the
platform a sufficiently bad example and a suffi-
ciently bad school, even in public life ; but
hold that, carried into private life, it becomes
an unendurable nuisance."

" These are strong words, sir ! " exclaimed
the Philanthropist.

" I hope so," said Mr. Crisparkle. " Good

He walked out of the Haven at a great rate,
but soon fell into his regular brisk pace, and soon
had a smile upon his face as he went along, Avon-
dering what the china shepherdess would have
said if she had seen him pounding Mr. Honey-
thunder in the late little lively affair. For Mr.
Crisparkle had just enough of harmless vanity to
hope that he had hit hard, and to glow with the
belief that he had trimmed the Philanthropic
jacket pretty handsomely.

He took himself to Staple Inn, but not to
P. J. T. and Mr. Grewgious. Full many a creak-
ing stair he climbed before he reached some
attic rooms in a corner, turned the latch of their
unbolted door, and stood beside the table of
Neville Landless.

An air of retreat and solitude hung about the
rooms and about their inhabitant. He was
much worn, and so were they. Their sloping
ceilings, cumbrous rusty locks and grates, and
heavy wooden bins and beams, slowly moulder-
ing withal, had a prisonous look, and he had
the haggard face of a ])risoner. Yet the sunlight
shone in at the ugly garret window, which had a

pent-house to itself thrust out among the tiles ;
and on the cracked and smoke-blackened parapet
beyond, some of the deluded si)arrows of the
place rheumatically hopped, like little feathered
cripples who had left their crutches in their
nests \ and there was a play of living leaves at
hand that changed the air, and made an imper-
fect sort of music in it that would have been
melody in the country.

The rooms were sparely furnished, but with
good store of books. Everything expressed the
abode of a poor student. That Mr. Crisparkle
had been either chooser, lender, or donor of the
books, or that he combined the three characters,
might have been easily seen in the friendly beam
of his eyes upon them as he entered.

" How goes it, Neville?"

" I am in good heart, Mr. Crisparkle, and
working away."

" I wish your eyes were not quite so large and
not quite so bright," said the Minor Canon,
slowly releasing the hand he had taken in his.

" They brighten at the sight of you," returned
Neville. " If you were to fall away from me,
they would soon be dull enough."

" Rally, rally ! " urged the other in a stimu-
lating tone. " Fight for it, Neville ! "

" If I were dying, I feel as if a word from you
would rally me ; if my pulse had stopped, I feel
as if your touch would make it beat again," said
Neville. " But I have rallied, and am doing

Mr. Crisparkle turned him with his face a
little more towards the light.

" I want to see a ruddier touch here, Neville,"
he said, indicating his own healthy cheek by
way of pattern. " I want more sun to shine
upon you."

Neville drooped suddenly as he replied, in a-
lowered voice : " I am not hardy enough for
that yet. I may become so, but I cannot bear it
yet. If you had gone through those Cloisterham
streets as I did ; if you had seen, as I did, those

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 16 of 103)