Charles Dickens.

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

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averted eyes, and the better sort of people
silently giving me too much room to pass, that I
might not touch them or come near them, you
wouldn't think it quite unreasonable that I can-
not go about in the daylight."

" My poor fellow ! " said the Minor Canon in
a tone so purely sympathetic that the young man
caught his hand, " I never said it was unreason-
able ; never thought so. Rut I should like you
to do it."

" And that would give me the strongest motive
to do it. But I cannot yet. I cannot persuade
myself that the eyes of even the stream of
strangers I pass in this vast city look at me



without suspicion. I feel marked and tainted,
even when I go out — as I do only — at night.
But the darkness covers me then, and I take
courage from it."

Mr. Crisparkle laid a hand upon his shoulder,
and stood looking down at him.

" If I could have changed my name," said ^
Neville, " I would have done so. But, as you
wisely pointed out to me, I can't do that, for it
would look like guilt. If I could have gone to
some distant place, I might have found relief in
that, but the thing is not to be thought of, for
the same reason. Hiding and escai)ing would
be the construction in either case. It seems a
little hard to be so tied to a stake, and inno-
cent; but I don't complain."

" And you must expect no miracle to help you,
Neville," said Mr. Crisparkle compassionately.

" No, sir, I know that. The ordinary fulness
of time and circumstances is all I have to trust

" It will right you at last, Neville."

" So I believe, and I hope I may live to
know it."

But perceiving that the despondent mood into
which he was falling cast a shadow on the
Minor Canon, and (it may be) feeling that the
broad hand upon his shoulder was not then
quite as steady as its own natural strength had
rendered it when it first touched him just now,
he brightened and said :

" Excellent circumstances for study, anyhow ;
and you know, j\Ir. Crisparkle, what need I have
of study in all ways. Not to mention that you
have advised me to study for the difficult pro-
fession of the law, specially, and lliat of course
I am guiding myself by the advice of such a
friend and helper. Such a good friend and
helper ! "

He took the fortifying hand from his shoulder,
and kissed it. Mr. Crisparkle beamed at the
books, but not so brightly as when he had

" I gather from your silence on the subject that
my late guardian is adverse, Mr. Crisparkle ? "

The Minor Canon answered : " Your late
guardian is a — a most unreasonable person,
and it signifies nothing to any reasonable per-
son whether he is adverse, or pcrvexse, or the

" Well for me that I have enough with eco-
nomy to live upon," sighed Neville, half wearily
and half cheerily, "while I wait to be learned,
and wait to be righted. I'Use I might have
proved the proverb, that while the grass grows
the steed starves ! "

He opened some books as he said it, and was

soon immersed in their interleaved and anno-
tated passages ; while Mr. Crisparkle sat be-
side him, expounding, correcting, and advising.
The Minor Canon's cathedral duties made these
visits of his difficult to accomplish, and only to
be compassed at intervals of many weeks. But
they were as serviceable as they were precious
to Neville Landless.

When they had got through sucli studies as
they had in hand, they stood leaning on the
window-sill, and looking down upon the patch
of garden. " Next week," said Mr. Crisparkle,
" you will cease to be alone, and will have a
devoted companion."

"And yet," returned Neville, "this seems an
uncongenial place to bring my sister to."

" I don't think so," said the Minor Canon.
" There is duty to be done here ; and there are
womanly feeling, sense, and courage wanted

" I meant," explained Neville, " that the
surroundings are so dull and unwomanly, and
that Helena can have no suitable friend or
society here."

" You have only to remember," said Mr.
Crisparkle, " that you are here yourself, and
that she has to draw you into the sun-light."

They were silent for a little while, and then
Mr. Crisparkle began anew.

" When we first spoke together, Neville, you
told me that your sister had risen out of the
disadvantages of your past lives as superior to
you as the tower of Cloisterham Cathedral is
higher than the chimneys of Minor Canon Cor-
ner. Do you remember that?"

" Right well ! "

" I was inclined to think it at the time an en-
thusiastic flight. No matter what I think it
now. What I would emphasize is, that under
the head of Pride your sister is a great and
opportune example to you."

" Under all heads that are included in the
composition of a fine character, she is."

" Say so ; but take this one. Your sister has
learnt how to govern what is proud in her
nature. She can dominate it even when it is
wounded through her sympathy with you. No
doubt she has suffered deeply in those same
streets where you suffered deeply. No doubt
her life is darkened by the cloud that darkens
yours. But bending her pride into a grand
composure that is not haughty or aggressive,
but is a sustained confidence in you and in the
truth, she has won her way through those
streets until she passes along them as high in
the general respect as any one who treads them.
Every day and hour of her life since Edwin



Drood's disappearance she has faced mah'gnity
and folly — for you — as only a brave nature well
directed can. So it will be with her to the end.
Another and weaker kind of pride might sink
broken-hearted, but never such a pride as hers :
which knows no shrinking, and can get no
mastery over her."

The pale cheek beside him flushed under the
comparison, and the hint implied in it.

" I will do all I can to imitate her," said

" Do so, and be a truly brave man, as she is
a truly brave woman," answered Mr. Crisparkle
stoutly. " It is growing dark. Will you go my
way with me when it is quite dark ? Mind ! it
is not I who wait for darkness."

Neville replied that he would accompany him
directly. But Mr. Crisparkle said he had a
moment's call to make on Mr. Grewgious as an
act of courtesy, and would run across to that
gentleman's chambers, and rejoin Neville on his
own door-step, if he would come down there to
meet him.

Mr. Grewgious, bolt upright as usual, sat tak-
ing his wine in the dusk at his open window ;
his wine-glass and decanter on the round table
at his elbow ; himself and his legs on the win-
dow-seat ; only one hinge in his whole body,
like a bootjack.

"How do you do, reverend sir?" said Mr.
Grewgious with abundant offers of hospitality,
which Avere as cordially declined as made.
" And how is your charge getting on over the
way in the set that I had the pleasure of recom-
mending to you as vacant antl eligible ? "

Mr. Crisparkle replied suitably.

" I am glad you approve of them," said Mr.
Grewgious, " because I entertain a sort of fancy
for having him under my eye."

As Mr. Grewgious had to turn his eye up
considerably before he could see the chambers,
the phrase was to be taken figuratively, and not

" And how did you leave Mr. Jasper, reve-
rend sir ? " said Mr. Grewgious.

Mr. Crisparkle had left him pretty well.

" And where did you leave Mr. Jasper,
reverend sir ? "

Mr. Crisparkle had left him at Cloisterham.

" And when did you leave Mr. Jasper,
reverend sir ? "

That morning.

" Umps ! " said Mr. Grewgious. " He didn't
say he was coming, perhaps ? "

" Coming where ?"

"Anywhere, for instance?" said Mr. Grew-

" No."

" Because here he is," said Mr. Grewgious,
who had asked all these questions with his pre-
occupied glance directed out at window. " And
he don't look agreeable, does he ? "

Mr. Crisparkle was craning towards the
window, when Mr. Grewgious added :

" If you will kindly step round here behind
me, in the gloom of the room, and will cast
your eye at the second-floor landing window in
yonder house, I think you will hardly fail to see
a slinking individual in whom I recognise our
local friend."

" You are right ! " cried Mr. Crisparkle.

" Umps ! " said Mr. Grewgious. Then he
added, turning his face so abruptly that his head
nearly came into collision with Mr. Crisparkle's :
" What should you say that our local friend was
up to ? "

The last passage he had been shown in the
Diary returned on Mr. Crisparkle's mind with
the force of a strong recoil, and he asked Mr.
Grewgious if he thought it possible that Neville
was to be harassed by the keeping of a watch
upon him ?

" A watch ? " repeated Mr. Grewgious
musingly. " Ay ! "

" Which would not only of itself haunt and
torture his life," said Mr. Crisparkle warmly,
" but would expose him to the torment of a
perpetually-reviving suspicion, whatever he
might do, or wherever he might go."

" Ay ! " said Mr. Grewgious, musingly still.
" Do I see him waiting for you ? "

" No doubt you do."

" Then would you have the goodness to
excuse my getting up to see you out, and to go
out to join him, and to go the way that you
were going, and to take no notice of our local
friend ? " said Mr. Grewgious. " I entertain a
sort of fancy for having him under my eye to-
night, do you know."

Mr. Crisparkle, with a significant nod, com-
plied ; and, rejoining Neville, went away with
him. They dined together, and parted at the
yet unfinished and undeveloped railway station :
Mr. Crisparkle to get home ; Neville to walk
the streets, cross the bridges, make a wide
round of the city in the friendly darkness, and
tire himself out.

It was midnight when he returned from his
solitary expedition and climbed his staircase.
The night was hot, and the windows of the stair-
case were all wide open. Coming to the top, it
gave him a passing chill of surprise (there being
no rooms but his up there) to find a stranger
sitting on the window-sill, more after the



manner of a venturesome glazier than an
amateur ordinarily careful of his neck ; in
fact, so much more outside the window than
inside as to suggest the thought that he must
liave come up by the water-spout instead of the

The stranger said nothing until Neville put
his key in his door ; then, seeming to make sure
of his identity from the action, he spoke :

" I beg your pardon," he said, coming from
the window with a frank and smiling air, and a
prepossessing address ; " the beans."

Neville was quite at a loss.

" Runners," said the visitor. "Scarlet. Next
door at tlie back."

" Oh ! " returned Neville. "And the migno-
nette and wallflower? "

" The same," said the visitor.

" Pray walk in."

" Thank you."

Neville lighted his candles, and the visitor sat
down. A handsome gentleman, with a young
face, but with an older figure in its robustness
and its breadth of shoulder ; say a man of eight-
and-twenty, or at the utmost thirty ; so extremely
sunburnt that the contrast between his brown
visage and the white forehead shaded out of
doors by his hat, and the glimpses of white
throat below the neckerchief, would have been
almost ludicrous but for his broad temples,
bright blue eyes, clustering brown hair, and
laughing teeth.

" I have noticed " said he. " My name

is Tartar."

Neville inclined his head.

" — I have noticed (excuse me) that you shut
yourself up a good deal, and that you seem to
like my garden aloft here. If you would like a
little more of it, I could throw out a few lines
and stays between my windows and yours, which
the runners would take to directly. And I have
some boxes, both of mignonette and wallflower,
that I could shove on along the gutter (with a
boat-hook I have by me) to your windows, and
draw back again when they wanted watering or
gardening, and shove on again when they were
ship-shape ; so that they would cause you no
trouble. I couldn't take this liberty without
asking your permission, so I venture to ask it.
Tartar, corresponding set, next door."

" You are very kind."

" Not at all. I ought to apologise for look-
ing in so late. But, having noticed (excuse me)
that you generally walk out at night, I thought
I should inconvenience you least by awaiting
your return. I am always afraid of inconveni-
encing busy men, being an idle man."

'* I should not have thought so from your

"No? I take it as a comijliment. In fact,
I was bred in the Royal Navy, and was First
Lieutenant when I quitted it. But, an uncle
disappointed in the service leaving me his pro-
perty on condition that I left the Navy, I ac-
cepted the fortune, and resigned my commis-

" Lately, I presume."

" Well, I had had twelve or fifteen years of
knocking about first. I came here some nine
months before you ; I had had one crop before
you came. I chose this place because, having
served last in a little corvette, I knew I should
feel more at home where I had a constant op-
portunity of knocking my head against the ceil-
ing. Besides, it would never do for a man who
had been aboard ship from his boyhood to turn
luxurious all at once. . Besides, again, having
been accustomed to a very short allowance of
land all my life, I thought I'd feel my way to the
command of a landed estate by beginning in

Whimsically as this was said, there was a
touch of merry earnestness in it that made it
doubly whimsical.

" However," said the Lieutenant, " I have
talked quite enough about myself. It is not my
way. I hope ; it has merely been to present my-
self to you naturally. If you will allow me to
take the liberty I have described, it will be a
charity, for it will give me something more to
do. And you are not to suppose that it will
entail any interruption or intrusion on you, for
that is far from my intention."

Neville replied that he was greatly obliged,
and that he thankfully accepted the kind pro-

" I am very glad to take your windows in
tow," said the Lieutenant. " From what I have
seen of you when I have been gardening at
mine, and you have been looking on, I have
thought you (excuse me) rather too studious
and delicate. May I ask, is your health at all
affected ? "

" I have undergone some mental distress,"
said Neville, confused, " which has stood me in
the stead of illness."

" Pardon me," said Mr. Tartar.

With the greatest delicacy he shifted his
ground to the windows again, and asked if he
could look at one of them. On Neville's open-
ing it, he immediately sprang out, as if he were
going aloft with a whole watch in an emergency,
and were setting a bright example.

" For Heaven's sake," cried Neville, " don't



do that I A\"here are you going, Mr. Tartar?
You'll be dashed to pieces ! "

" All well I " said the Lieutenant, coolly look-
ing about him on the housetop. " All taut
and trim here. Those lines and stays shall be
rigged before you turn out in the morning. May
I take this short cut home, and say good
night ?''

^'- Mr. Tartar!" urged Neville. "Pray! It
makes me giddy to see you ! "

Lut Mr. Tartar, with a wave of his hand and
the deftness of a cat, had already dipped through
his scuttle of scarlet-runners without breaking a
leaf, and " gone below."

Mr. Grewgious, his bedroom window blind
held aside with his hand, happened at that mo-
ment to have Neville's chambers under his eye
for the last time that night. Fortunately his eye
was on the front of the house, and not the back,
or this remarkable appearance and disappear-
ance might have broken his rest as a phenome-
non. But Mr. Grewgious seeing nothing there,
not even a light in the windows, his gaze wan-
dered from the windows to the stars, as if he
would ha\'e read in them something that was
hidden from him. Many of us would, if we
could ; but none of us so much as know
our letters in the stars yet — or seem likely to
do it in this state of existence — and few lan-
guages can be read until their alphabets are



T about this time a stranger appeared
in Cloisterham ; a white-haired per-
sonage, with black eyebrows. Being
buttoned up in a tightish blue sur-
tout, with a bufif waistcoat and grey
trousers, he had something of a

^^^2) ■'' military air ; but he announced hunselt
at the Crozier (the orthodox hotel, where
he put up with a portmanteau) as an idle dog
who lived upon his means ; and he farther an-
nounced that he had a mind to take a lodging in
the picturesque old city for a month or two, with
a view of settling down there altogether. Both
announcements were made in the coffee-room of
the Crozier, to all whom it might or might not
concern, by the stranger as he stood with his
back to the empty fire-place, waiting for his
fried sole, veal cutlet, and pint of sherry. And
the waiter (business being chronically slack at
the Crozier) represented all whom it might or

might not concern, and absorbed the whole of
the information.

This gentleman's white head was unusually
large, and his shock of white hair was unusually
thick and ample. " I suppose, waiter," he said,
shaking his shock of hair, as a Newfoundland
dog might shake his before sitting down to din-
ner, " that a fair lodging for a single buffer might
be found in these parts, eh ? "

The waiter had no doubt of it.

"Something old," said the gentleman. "Take
my hat tlown for a moment from that peg, will
you ? No, I don't want it ; look into it. What
do you see written there ? "

The waiter read : " Datchery."

" Now you know my name," said the gentle-
man ; " Dick Datchery. Hang it up again. I
was saying something old is what I should
prefer, something odd and out of the way ;
something venerable, architectural, and incon-

" We have a good choice of inconvenient
lodgings in the town, sir, I think," replied the
waiter, with modest confidence in its resources
that way ; " indeed, I have no doubt that we
could suit you that far, liowever particular you
might be. But a architectural lodging ! " That
seemed to trouble the waiter's heatl, and he
shook it.

" Anything Cathedraly, now," Mr. Datchery

" Mr. Tope," said the waiter, brightening, as
he rubbed his chin with his hand, " would be
the likeliest party to inform in that line."

" Who is Mr. Tope ?" inquired Dick Datchery.

The waiter explained that he was the verger,
and that Mrs. Tope had, indeed, once upon a
time let lodgings herself — or offered to let them ;
but that, as nobody had ever taken them, Mrs.
Tope's window-bill, long a Cloisterham Institu-
tion, had disappeared ; probably had tumbled
down one day, and never been put up again.

" I'll call on Mrs. Tope," said Mr. Datchery,
" after dinner."

So, when he had done his dinner, he was
duly directed to the spot, and sallied out for it.
But the Crozier being an hotel of a most re-
tiring disposition, and the waiter's directions
being fatally precise, he soon became bev.'il-
dered, and went boggling about and about the
cathedral tower, whenever he could catch a
glimpse of it, with a general impression on his
mind that Mrs. Tope's was somewhere very
near it, and that, like the children in the game
of hot boiled beans and very good butter, he
was warm in his search when he saw the tower,
and cold when he didn't see it.



He was getting very cold indeed when he
came upon a fragment of burial-ground in which
an unhappy sheep was grazing. Unhappy, be-
cause a hideous small boy was stoning it through
the railings, and had already lamed it in one leg,
and was much excited by the benevolent sports-
manlike purpose of breaking its other three legs,
and bringing it down.

" 'It 'im agin ! " cried the boy as the poor
creature leaped ; " and made a dint in his wool."

" Let him be ! " said I\Ir. Datchery. " Don't
you see you have lamed him ? "

" Yer lie ! " returned the sportsman. " E went
and lamed isself. I see 'im do it, and I giv'
'im a shy as a Widdy-warning to 'im not to go a
bruisin' 'is master's mutton any more."

" Come here."

"I won't; I'll come when yer can ketch

" Stay there, then, and show me which is Mr.

" 'Ow can I stay here and show you which is
Topeseses, when Topeseses is t'other side the
Kinfreederal, and over the crossings, and round
ever so many corners ? Stoo-pid ! Ya-a-ah ! "

" Show me where it is, and I'll give you

" Come on, then."

This brisk dialogue concluded, the boy led
the way, and by-and-by stopped at some distance
from an arched passage, pointing.

" Lookie yonder. You see that there winder
and door?"

"That's Tope's?"

" Yer lie ; it ain't. That's Jarsper's."

" Indeed ? " said Mr. Datchery, with a second
look of some interest.

" Yes, and I ain't a-goin' no nearer 'Im, I tell

" Why not ? "

" 'Cos I ain't a-goin' to be lifted off my legs
and 'ave my braces bust and be choked ; not if
I knows it, and not by 'Im. Wait till I set a
jolly good flint a flyin' at the back o' 'is jolly
old 'ed some day ! Now look t'other side the
harch ; not the side where Jarsper's door is ;
t'other side."

" I see."

" A little way in, o' that side, there's a low
door, down two steps. That's Topeseses, with
'is name on a hoval plate."

" Good ! See here," said Mr. Datchery, pro-
ducing a shilling. " You owe me half of this."

■' Yer lie ; I don't owe yer nothing ; I never
seen yer."

" I tell you you owe me half of this, because
I have no sixpence in my pocket. So, the next

time you meet me, you shall do something else
for me, to pay me."

" All right, give us 'old."

" What is your name, and where do you live?"

" Deputy. Travellers' Twopenny, 'cross the

The boy instantly darted off with the shilling,
lest Mr. Datchery should repent, but stopped at
a safe distance, on the happy chance of his being
uneasy in his mind about it, to goad him with a
demon dance expressive of its irrevocability.

Mr. Datchery, taking off his hat to give that
shock of white hair of his another sliake, seemed
quite resigned, and betook himself whither he
had been directed.

Mr. Tope's official dwelling, communicating
by an upper stair with Mr. Jasper's (lience INIrs.
Tope's attendance on that gentleman), was of
very modest proportions, and partook of the
character of a cool dungeon. Its ancient walls
were massive, and its rooms rather seemed to
have been dug out of them than to have been
designed beforehand with any reference to them.
The main door opened at once on a chamber
of no describable shape, with a groined roof,
which in its turn opened on another chamber of
no describable shape, with another groined roof:
their windows small, and in the thickness of the
walls. These two chambers, close as to their
atmosphere, and swarthy as to their illumination
by natural light, were the apartments which
Mrs. Tope had so long offered to an unappre-
ciative city. Mr. Datchery, however, was more
appreciative. He found that, if he sat with the
main door open, he would enjoy the passing
society of all comers to and fro by the gateway,
and would have light enough. He found that
if Mr. and Mrs. Tope, living overhead, used for
their own egress and ingress a little side-stair
that came plump into the Precincts by a door
opening outward, to the surprise and inconve-
nience of a limited public of pedestrians in a
narrow way, he would be alone, as in a separate
residence. He found the rent moderate, and
everything as quaintly inconvenient as he could
desire. He agreed, therefore, to take the lodg-
ing then and there, and money do\\n, possession
to be had next evening, on condition that re-
ference was permitted him to Mr. Jasper, as
occupying the gatehouse, of which, on the other
side of the gateway, the verger's hole-in-the-wall
was an appanage or subsidiary part.

The poor dear gentleman was very solitary
and very sad, Mrs. Tope said, but she had no
doubt he would " speak for her." Perhaps ]\Ir.
Datchery had heard something of what had
occurred there last winter ?



Mr. Datchery had as confused a knowledge
of the event in question, on trying to recall it,
as he well could have. He begged Mrs. Tope's
pardon when she found it incumbent on her to
correct him in every detail of his summary of
the facts, but pleaded that he was merely a single
buffer getting through life upon his means as
idly as he could, and that so many people were
so constantly making away with so many other
people, as to render it difficult for a buffer of an

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 17 of 103)