Charles Dickens.

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

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easy temper to preserve the circumstances of the
several cases unmixed in his mind.

Mr. Jasper proving willing to speak for Mrs.
Tope, Mr. Datchery, who had sent \\\> his card,
was invited to ascend the postern staircase. The
Mayor was there, Mr. Tope said ; but he was
not to be regarded in the light of company, as
he and Mr. Jasper were great friends.

" I beg pardon," said Mr. Datchery, making
a leg with his hat under his arm, as he addressed
himself equally to both gentlemen; "a selfish
precaution on my part, and not personally in-
teresting to anybody but myself. But as a buffer
living on his means, and having an idea of doing
it in this lovely place in peace and quiet, for
remaining span of life, I beg to ask if the Tope
family are quite respectable ? "

Mr. Jasper could answer for that without the
slightest hesitation.

'• That is enough, sir," said Mr. Datchery.

" My friend the Mayor," added Mr. Jasper,
presenting Mr. Datchery with a courtly motion
of his hand towards that potentate, " whose re-
commendation is actually much more important
to a stranger than that of an obscure person like
myself, will testify in their behalf, I am sure."

" The Worshipful the Mayor," said Mr. Datch-
ery with a low bow, " places me under an in-
finite obligation."

" Very good people, sir, IMr. and Mrs. Tope,"
said Mr. Sapsea with condescension. " Very
good opinions. Very well behaved. Very re-
spectful, ]\Iuch approved by the Dean and

" The Worshipful the Mayor gives them a
character," said Mr. Datchery, " of which they
may indeed be proud. I would ask His Honour
(if I might be permitted) whether there are not
many objects of great interest in the city which
is under his beneficent sway ? "

" We are, sir," returned Mr. Sapsea, " an
ancient city, and an ecclesiastical city. We are
a constitutional city, as it becomes such a city
to be, and we uphold and maintain our glorious

" His Honour," said Mr. Datchery, bowing,
'• inspires me with a desire to know more of the

city, and confirms me in my inclination to end
my days in the city."

" Retired from the Army, sir ?" suggested Mr.

" His Honour the Mayor does me too much
credit," returned Mr. Datchery.

"Navy, sir?" suggested Mr. Sapsea.

" Again," repeated Mr. Datchery, " His Ho-
nour the Mayor does me too much credit."

" Diplomacy is a fine profession," said Mr.
Sapsea as a general remark.

" There, I confess. His Honour the Mayor is
too many for me," said Mr. Datchery with an
ingenious smile and bow ; " even a diplomatic
bird must fall to such a gun."

Now this was very soothing. Here was a
gentleman of a great, not to say a grand, address,
accustomed to rank and dignity, really setting a
fine example how to behave to a Mayor. There
was something in that third-person style of bemg
spoken to, that Mr. Sapsea found particularly
recognisant of his merits and position.

" But I crave pardon," said Mr. Datchery.
" His Honour the Mayor will bear with me, if
for a moment I have been deluded into occupy-
ing his time, and have forgotten the humble
claims upon my own, of my hotel, the Crozier."

" Not at all, sir," said Mr. Sapsea. " I am
returning home, and, if you would like to take
the exterior of our cathedral in your way, I shall
be glad to point it out."

" His Honour the Mayor," said Mr. Datchery,
" is more than kind and gracious."

As Mr. Datchery, when he had made his
acknowledgments to Mr. Jasper, could not be
induced to go out of the room before the Wor-'
shipful, the Worshipful led the way down-stairs ;
Mr. Datchery following with his hat under his
arm, and his shock of white hair streaming in
the evening breeze.

" Might I ask His Honour," said j\Ir. Datch-
ery, "whether that gentleman we have just
left is the gentleman of w^hom I have heard in
the neighbourhood as being much afflicted by
the loss of a nephew, and concentrating his life
on avenging the loss ? "

" That is the gentleman. John Jasper, sir."

" Would His Honour allow me to inquire
whether there are strong suspicions of any one ?"

" More than suspicions, sir," returned Mr.
Sapsea ; " all but certainties."

" Only think now ! " cried Mr. Datchery.

" But proof, sir, proof must be built up stone
by stone," said the Mayor. " As I say, the end
crowns the work. It is not enough that Justice
should be morally certain ; she must be im-
morally certain — legally, that is."



" His Honour," said Mr. Datchery, " reminds
me of the nature of the law. Immoral. How
true ! "

" As I say, sir," pompously went on the
Mayor, " the arm of the law is a strong arm,
and a long arm. That is the way I put it. A
strong arm and a long arm."

" How forcible ! And yet, again, how true !"
murmured Mr. Datchery.

" And without betraying what I call the

secrets of the prison-house " said Mr. Sap-

:sea. " The secrets cf the prison-house is the
term I used on the bench."

" And what other term than His Honour's
would express it ? " said Mr. Datchery.

" — Without, I say, betraying them, I predict
to you, knowing the iron will of the gentleman
we have just left (I take the bold step of calling
it iron, on account of its strength), that in this
case the long arm will reach, and the strong arm
will strike. — This is our cathedral, sir. The
best judges are pleased to admire it, and the
best among our townsmen own to being a little
vain of it."

All this time Mr. Datchery had walked with
his hat under his arm, and his white hair stream-
ing. He had an odd momentary appearance
upon him of having forgotten his hat, when Mr.
Sapsea now touched it ; and he clapped his hand
up to his head, as if with some vague expecta-
tion of finding another hat upon it.

" Pray be covered, sir," entreated Mr. Sap-
sea ; magnificently implying : " I shall not mind
it, I assure you."

" His Honour is very good, but I do it for
coolness," said Mr. Datchery.

Then Mr. Datchery admired the cathedral,
and Mr. Sapsea pointed it out as if he himself
had invented and built it : there were a few
details, indeed, of which he did not approve, but
those he glossed over, as if the workmen had
made mistakes in his absence. The cathedral
disposed of, he led the way by the churchyard,
and stopped to extol the beauty of the evening
— by chance — in the immediate vicinity of Mrs,
Sapsea's epitaph.

"And, by-the-bye," said Mr. Sapsea, appear-
ing to descend from an elevation to remember
it all of a sudden ; like Apollo shooting down
from Olympus to pick up his forgotten lyre ;
" that is one of our small lions. The partiality
of our people has made it so, and strangers have
been seen taking a copy of it now and then. I
am not a judge of it myself, for it is a little
work of my own. But it was troublesome to
turn, sir ; I may say, difficult to turn with

Mr. Datchery became so ecstatic over Mr.
Sapsea's composition, that in spite of his inten-
tion to end his days in Cloistcrham, and there-
fore his probably having in reserve many oppor-
tunities of copying it, he would have transcribed
it into his pocket-book on the spot, but for the
slouching towards them of its material producer
and perpetuator, Durdles, whom Mr. Sapsea
hailed, not sorry to show him a bright example
of behaviour to superiors.

" Ah, Durdles ! This is the mason, sir ; one
of our Cloisterham worthies ; everybody here
knows Durdles. Mr. Datchery, Durdles ; a
gentleman who is going to settle here."

" I wouldn't do it if I was him," growled
Durdles. " We're a heavy lot."

" You surely don't speak for yourself, Mr.
Durdles," returned Mr. Datchery, " any more
than for His Honour.''

"Who's His Honour?" demanded Durdles.

" His Honour the Mayor."

" I never was brought afore him," said Dur-
dles, with anything but the look of a loyal sub-
ject of the mayoralty, " and it'll be time enough
for me to Honour him when I am. Until
which, and when, and where,

' Mister Sapsea is his name,
England is his nation,
Cloistei ham's his dwelhnfj-place,
Aukshneer's his occupation.' "

Here, Deputy (preceded by a flying oyster
shell) appeared upon the scene, and requested
to have the sum of threepence instantly
"chucked" to him by Mr. Durdles, whom he
had been vainly seeking up and down, as lawful
wages overdue. While that gentleman, with
his bundle under his arm, slowly found and
counted out the money, Mr. Sapsea informed
the new settler of Durdles's habits, pursuits,
abode, and reputation. " I suppose a curious
stranger might come to see you and your works,
Mr. Durdles, at any odd time ? " said Mr.
Datchery upon that.

"Any gentleman is welcome to come and see
me any evening, if he brings licjuor for two with
him," returned Durdles. with a i)enny between
his teeth and certain halfpence in his hands ;
" or, if he likes to make it twice two, he'll be
doubly welcome."

" I shall come. Master Deputy, what do you
owe me ? "

"A job."

" Mind you pay me hone.'^lly wiii^i the job of
showing me Mr. Durdles's house when I want
to go there."

Deputy, with a piercing broadside of whistle



through the whole gap in his mouth, as a receipt
in full ibr all arrears, vanished.

The Worshipful and the Worshipper then
])assed on together until they parted, with many
ceremonies, at the Worshipful's door ; even
then the Worshipper carried his hat under his
arm, and ga\e his streaming white hair to the

Said Mr. Datchery to himself that night, as
he looked at his white hair in the gas-lighted
looking-glass over the coffee-room chimney-
piece at the Crozier, and shook it out : " For a
single bufter, of an easy temper, living idly on
his means, I have had a rather busy after-
noon ! "



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

Cloisterham is so bright and sunny in these
summer days, that the cathedral and the monas-
tery ruin show as if their strong walls were
transparent. A soft glow seems to shine from
within them, rather than upon them from with-
out, such is their mellowness as they look forth
on the hot corn-fields and the smoking roads
that distantly wind among them. The Cloister-
ham gardens blush with ripening fruit. Time
was when travel-stained pilgrims rode in
clattering parties through the city's welcome
shades ; time is when wayfarers, leading a gipsy
life between hay-making time and harvest, and
looking as if they were just made of the dust of
the earth, so very dusty are they, lounge about
on cool door-steps, trying to mend their un-
mendable shoes, or giving them to the city
kennels as a hopeless job, and seeking others in
the buntUes that they carry, along with their yet
unused sickles swathed in bands of straw. At
all the more public pumps there is much cool-
ing of bare feet, together with much bubbling
and gurgling of drinking with hand to spout on
the part of these Bedouins ; the Cloisterham
police meanwhile looking askant from their
beats with suspicion, and manifest impatience
that the intruders should depart from Avithin the

civic bounds, and once more fry themselves on
the simmering high-roads.

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

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

" Oh, why, why, why did you say I was at
home ? " cries Rosa helplessly.

The maid replies that Mr. Jasper never asked
the question. That he said he knew she was at
home, and begged she might be told that he
asked to see her.

" What shall I do ? what shall I do ? " thinks
Rosa, clasping her hands.

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

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

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

" I have been waiting," he begins, "for some
time, to be summoned back to my duty near



After several times forming her lips, whicli
she knows he is closely watching;, into the shape
of some other hesitating rei)ly, and then into
none, she answers : " Duty, sir ? "

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

" I have left off tliat study."

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

" Never, sir."

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

" I did love him ! " cried Rosa with a flash of

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

She sits in the same still attitude, but shrink-
ing a little more.

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

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

"And you still are?"

" I still am, sir. And I beg not to be ques-
tioned any more about it. At all events, I
will not answer any more ; I have that in my

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

" I will not question you any more, since you
object to it so much. I will confess "

" I do not wish to hear you, sir," cries Rosa,

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

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

" What harm ? "

" Presently, presently. You question me, you

see, and surely that's not fair when you forbid
me to question you. Nevertheless, I will answer
the (juestion presently. Dearest Rosa ! Charm-
ing Rosa !"

She starts up again.

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

" I do not forget how many windows com-
mand a view of us," he says, glancing towards
them. " I will not touch you again ; I Avill
come no nearer to you than 1 am. Sit down,
and there will be no mighty wonder in your
music-master's leaning idly against a pedestal
and speaking with you, remembering all that
lias hajipened, and our shares in it. Sit down,
my beloved."

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

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

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

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

This lie, so gross, while the mere words in
which it is told are so true, is more than Rosa
can endure. She answers Avith kindling indig-
nation : " You were as false throughout, sir, as
you are now. You were false to him, daily
and hourly. You know that you made my life
unhappy by your pursuit of me. You know that
you made me afraid to open his generous eyes,



and that you forced me, for his own trusting,
good, good sake, to keep the truth from him,
tliat you were a bad, bad man ! "

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

" How beautiful you are ! You are more

' beautiful in anger than in repose. I don't ask

you for your love ; give me yourself and your

( hatred ; give me yourself and that pretty rage ;

I give me yourself and that enchanting scorn ; it

will be enough for me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

" 'What do you mean, sir ? "

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

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

"My belief is my own; and I reserve it,

worshipped of my soul ! Circumstances may
accumulate so strongly rc'cn against an innocent
man, that directed, sliarpened, and pointed,
they may slay him. One wanting link dis-
covered by perseverance against a guilty man
proves his guilt, however slight its evidence
before, and he dies. Young Landless stands in
deadly peril either way."

_ " If you really suppose," Rosa pleads with
him, turning paler, "that I favour Mr. Landless,
or that Mr. Landless has ever in any way ad-
dressed himself to me, you are wrong."

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

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

" I love her dearly."

" You care for her good name ? "

" I have said, sir, I love her dearly."

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

" You dare propose to me to "

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

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

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



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

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

With a similar action.

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

With another repetition of the action.

" There is my past and my present wasted
life. There is the desolation of my heart and

my soul. There is my peace; there is my
despair. Stamp them into the dust ; so that
you take me, were it even mortally hating

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

" Rosa, I am self-repressed again. I am



walking calmly beside you to the house. I
shall wait for some encouragement and hope.
I shall not strike too soon. Give me a sign
that you attend to me."

She slightly and constrainedly moves her

" Not a word of this to any one, or it will
bring down the blow, as cerUvinly as night

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 18 of 103)