Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 19 of 103)
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follows day. Another sign that you attend to
me."

She moves her hand once more.

" I love you, love you, love you ! If you



were to cast me ofif now — but you will not —
you would never be rid of me. No one should
come between us. I would pursue you to the
death."

The handmaid coming out to open the gate
for him, he quietly pulls off his hat as a parting
salute, and goes away with no greater show^ of
agitation than is visible in the effigy of Mr.
Sapsea's father opposite. Rosa faints in going
up-stairs, and is carefully carried to her room
and laid down on her bed. A thunder-storm is
coming on, the maids sav, and the hot and



JiOSA STAKES UP HER MIND WHAT TO DO.



97




stifling air has overset the pretty dear : no
wonder; they have felt their own knees all of
a tremble all day long.



CHAPTER XX.

A FLIGHT.

OSA no sooner came to herself than
the whole of the late interview was
before her. It even seemed as if it
had pursued her into her insensi-
bility, and she had not had a mo-
ment's unconsciousness of it. What
to do she was at a frightened loss to know :
the only one clear thought in her mind
was, that she must fly from this terrible man.

But where could she take refuge, and how
could she go ? She had never breathed her
dread of him to any one but Helena. If she
went to Helena, and told her what had passed,
that very act might bring down the irreparable
mischief that he threatened he had the power,
and that she knew he had the will, to do. The
more fearful he appeared to her excited memory
and imagination, the more alarming her respon-
sibility appeared ; seeing that a slight mistake
on her part, either in action or delay, might let
his malevolence loose on Helena's brother.

Rosa's mind throughout the last six months
had been stormily confused. A half-formed,
wholly unexpressed suspicion tossed in it, now
heaving itself up, and now sinking into the
deep ; now gaining palpability, and now losing
it. Jasper's self-absorption in his nephew when
he was alive, and his unceasing pursuit of the
inquiry how he came by his death, if he were
dead, were themes so rife in the place, that no
one appeared able to suspect the possibility of
foul play at his hands. She had asked herself
the question, " Am I so wicked in my thoughts
as to conceive a wickedness that others cannot
imagine?" Then she had considered, Did the
suspicion come of her previous recoiling from
him before the fact ? And if so, was not that a
proof of its baselessness ? Then she had re-
flected, "What motive could he have, according
accusation?" She was ashamed to
in her mind, " The motive of gaining
And covered her face, as if the lightest
shadow of the idea of founding murder on such
an idle vanity were a crime almost as great.

She ran over in her mind again all that he

had said by the sun-dial in the garden. He

had persisted in treating the disappearance as

murder, consistently with his whole public

Edwin Drood, 7.



to my
answer
vie!''



course since the finding of the watch and sliirt-
pin. If he were afraid of the crime being traced
out, would he not rather encourage the idea of
a voluntary disappearance? He had even de-
clared that if the ties between him and his
nephew had been less strong, he might have
swept " even him " away from her side. Was
that like his having really done so? He had
spoken of laying his six months' labours in the
cause of a just vengeance at her feet. Would
he have done that, with that violence of pas-
sion, if they were a pretence ? Would he have
ranged them with his desolate heart and soul,
his wasted life, his peace and his despair ? The
very first sacrifice that he represented himself as
making for her was his fidelity to his dear boy
after death. Surely these facts Avere strong
against a fancy that scarcely dared to hint itself.
And yet he was so terrible a man ! In short,
the poor girl (for what could she know of the
criminal intellect, which its own professed stu-
dents perpetually misread, because they persist
in trying to reconcile it with the average intel-
lect of average men, instead of identifying it as
a horrible wonder apart ?) could get by no road
to any other conclusion than that he tvas a
terrible man, and must be fled from.

She had been Helena's stay and comfort
during the whole time. She had constantly
assured her of her full belief in her brother's
innocence, and of her sympathy with him in his
misery. But she had never seen him since the
disappearance, nor had Helena ever spoken one
\Yord of his avowal to Mr. Crisparkle in regard
of Rosa, though, as a part of the interest of the
case, it was well known far and wide. He was
Helena's unfortunate brother, to her, and
nothing more. The assurance she had given
her odious suitor was strictly true, though it
would have been better (she considered now) if
she could have restrained herself from so giving
it. Afraid of him as the bright and delicate
little creature was, her spirit swelled at the
thought of his knowing it from her own lips.

But where was she to go ? Anywhere beyond
his reach was no reply to the question. Some-
where must be thought of. She determined to
go to her guardian, and to go immediately.
The feeling she had imparted to Helena, on
the night of their first confidence, was so strong
upon her — the feeling of not being safe from
him, and of the solid walls of the old convent
being powerless to keep out his ghostly follow-
ing of her — that no reasoning of her own could
calm her terrors. The fascination of repulsion
had been upon her so long, and now culminated
so darkly, that she felt as if he had ppwer to



98



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.



bind her by a spell. Glancing out at window,
even now, as she rose to dress, the sight of the
sun-dial on which he had leaned when he de-
clared himself, turned her cold, and made her
shrink from it, as though he had invested it
with some awful quality from his own nature.

She wrote a hurried note to Miss Twinkleton,
saying that she had sudden reason for wishing
to see her guardian promptly, and had gone to
him; also, entreating the good lady not to be
uneasy, for all was well with her. Slie hurried
a few quite useless articles into a very little bag,
left the note in a conspicuous place, and went
out, softly closing the gate after her.

It was the first time she had ever been even
in Cloisterham High Street alone. But, know-
ing all its ways and windings very well, she
hurried straight to the corner from which the
omnibus departed. It was at that very moment
going off.

" Stop and take me, if you i)lease, Joe. I am
obliged to go to London."

In less than another minute she was on her
road to the railway, under Joe's protection.
Joe waited on her when she got there, put her
safely into the railway carriage, and handed in
the very little bag after her, as though it were
some enormous trunk, hundredweights heavy,
which she must on no account endeavour to lift.

" Can you go round, when you get back, and
tell Miss Twinkleton that you saw me safely off,
Joe?"

" It shall be done, miss."

"With my love, please, Joe."

"Yes, miss — and I wouldn't mind having it
myself!" But Joe did not articulate the last
clause ; only thought it.

Now that she was whirling away for London
in real earnest, Rosa was at leisure to resume
the thoughts Avhich her personal hurry had
checked. The indignant thought that his de-
claration of love soiled her ; that she could only
be cleansed from the stain of its impurity by
appealing to the honest and true ; supported
her for a time against her fears, and confirmed
her in her hasty resolution. But, as the evening
grew darker and darker, and the great city im-
pended nearer and nearer, the doubts usual in
such cases began to rise. \Miether this was not
a wild proceeding, after all ; how Mr. Grewgious
might regard it ; whether she should find him at
the journey's end ; how she would act if he were
absent ; what might become of her, alone, in a
place so strange and crowded ; how if she had
but waited and taken counsel first ; whether, if
she could now go back, she would not do it
thankfully ; a multitude of such uneasy specula-



tions disturbed her, more and more as they
accumulated. At length the train came into
London over the housetops ; and down below
lay the gritty streets with their yet unneeded
lamjis aglow, on a hot light summer night.

" Hiram Grewgious, Esquire, Staple Inn,
London." This was all Rosa knew of her
destination ; but it was enough to send her
rattling away again in a cab, through deserts of
gritty streets, where many people crowded at
the corner of courts and by-ways to get some
air, and where many other people walked with
a miserably monotonous noise of shuffling of
feet on hot paving-stones, and where all the
people and all their surroundings were so gritty
and so shabby !

There was music playing here and there, but
it did not enliven the case. No barrel-organ
mended the matter, and no big drum beat dull
care away. Like the chapel bells that were
also going here and there, they only seemed to
evoke echoes from brick surfaces, and dust from
e\'erything. As to the flat wind instruments,
they seemed to have cracked their hearts and
souls in pining for the country.

Her jingling conveyance stopped at last at a
fast-closed gateway, which appeared to belong
to somebody who had gone to bed very early,
and was much afraid of housebreakers. Rosa,
discharging her conveyance, timidly knocked at
this gateway, and was let in, very little bag and
all, by a watchman.

"Does Mr. Grewgious live here?"

" Mr. Grewgious lives there, miss," said the
watchman, pointing further in.

So Rosa went further in, and, when the clocks
were striking ten, stood on P. J. T.'s door-steps,
wondering what P. J. T. had done with his
street-door.

Guided by the painted name of ]\Ir. Grew-
gious, she went ui)-stairs, and softly tapped and
tapped several times. But no one answering,
and Mr. Grewgious's door-handle yielding to
her touch, she went in, and saw her guardian
sitting on a window-seat at an open window,
with a shaded lamp placed far from him on a
table in a corner,

Rosa drew nearer to him in the twilight of
the room. He saw her, and he said, in an
under-tone : " Good Heaven ! "

Rosa fell upon his neck with tears, and then
he said, returning her embrace :

" My child, my child ! 1 thought you were
your mother ! — But what, what, what," he
added soothingly, " has happened ? My dear,
what has brought you here? Who has brought
you here ? "



A PREUX CHEVALIER.



99



" No one. I came alone."

"Lord bless me!" ejaculated Mr. Grew-
gious. "Came alone! Why didn't you write
to me to come and fetch you ? "

" I had no time. I took a sudden resolu-
tion. Poor, poor Eddy ! "

"Ah, poor fellow, poor fellow !"

" His uncle has made love to me. I cannot
bear it," said Rosa, at once with a burst of tears,
and a stamp of her little foot ; " I shudder with
horror of him, and I have come to you to pro-
tect me and all of us from him, if yon will ! "

" I will ! " cried Mr. Grewgious with a sudden
rush of amazing energy. " Damn him !

' Confound his politics I
Frustrate his knavish tricks !
On Thee his hopes to fix ?
Damn him again I ' "

After this most extraordinary outburst, Mr.
Grewgious, quite beside himself, plunged about
the room, to all appearance undecided whether
he was in a fit of loyal enthusiasm or combative
denunciation.

He stopped and said, wiping his face : " I
beg your pardon, my dear, but you will be glad
to know I feel better. Tell me no more just
now, or I might do it again. You must be
refreshed and cheered. What did you take
last ? Was it breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, or
supper ? And what will you take next ? Shall
it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, or supper ? "

The respectful tenderness with which, on one
knee beforf her, he helped her to remove her
hat, and disentangle her pretty hair from it, was
quite a chivalrous sight. Yet who, knowing
him only on the surface, would have expected
chivalry — and of the true sort, too ; not the
spurious — from Mr. Grewgious ?

" Your rest, too, must be provided for," he
went on ; " and you shall have the prettiest
chamber in Furnival's. Your toilet must be
provided for, and you shall have everything that
an unlimited head chambermaid — by which ex-
pression I mean a head chambermaid not limited
as to outlay- — can procure. Is that a bag ? " he
looked hard at it ; sooth to say, it required hard
looking at to be seen at all in a dimly-lighted
room : " and is it your property, my dear ? " ,'

" Yes, sir. I brought it with me."

" It is not an extensive bag," said Mr. Grew-
gious candidly, "though admirably calculated
to contain a day's provision for a canary bird.
Perhaps you brought a canary bird ? "

Rosa smiled and shook her head.

" If you had, he should have been made
welcome," said Mr. Grewgious, "and I think
he would have been pleased to be hung upon a



nail outside, and pit himself against our Staple
sparrows, whose execution must be admitted to
be not quite equal to tlieir intention. Which is
the case with so many of us ! You didn't say
what meal, my dear. Have a nice jumble of all
meals."

Rosa thanked him, but said she could only
take a cup of tea. Mr. Grewgious, after several
times running out, and in again, to mention
such supplementary items as marmalade, eggs,
water-cresses, salted fish, and frizzled ham, ran
across to Furnival's without his hat, to give his
various directions. And soon afterwards they
were realised in practice, and the board was
spread.

" Lord bless my soul ! " cried Mr. Grewgious,
putting the lamji upon it, and taking his seat
opposite Rosa; "what a new sensation for a
poor old Angular bachelor, to be sure ! "

Rosa's expressive little eyebrows asked him
what he meant ?

" The sensation of having a sweet young pre-
sence in the place, that whitewashes it, paints
it, papers it, decorates it with gilding, and
makes it Glorious ! " said Mr. Grewgious. " Ah
me ! Ah me ! "

As there was something mournful in his sigh,
Rosa, in touching him with her teacup, ven-
tured to touch him with her small hand too.

" Thank you, my dear," said Mr. Grewgious.
" Ahem ! Let's talk ! "

" Do you always live here, sir ? " asked Rosa.

" Yes, my dear."

" And always alone ? "

" Always alone ; except that I have daily com-
pany in a gentleman by the name of Bazzard,
my clerk."

" He doesn't live here ? "

" No, he goes his way after office hours. In
fact, he is oft" duty here altogether just at pre-
sent ; and a firm down-stairs, with which I have
business relations, lend me a substitute. But
it would be extremely difficult to rej^lace Mr.
Bazzard."

" He must be very fond of you," said Rosa.

" He bears up against it with commendable
fortitude if he is," returned Mr. Grewgious after
considering the matter. " But I doubt if he is.
Not particularly so. You see he is discontented,
poor fellow."

" Why isn't he contented ? " was the natural
inquiry.

" Misplaced," said Mr. Grewgious with great
mystery.

Rosa's eyebrows resumed their inquisitive and
perplexed expression.

"So misplaced," Mr. Grewgious went on,



100



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.



" that I feel constantly apologetic towards him.
And he feels (though he doesn't mention it) that
I have reason to be."

Mr. Grewgious had by this time grown so
very mysterious, that Rosa did not know how to
go on. While she was thinking about it, Mr.
Grewgious suddenly jerked out of himself, for
the second time :

" Let's talk ! We were speaking of Mr. Baz-
zard. It's a secret, and, moreover, it is Mr.
Bazzard's secret ; but the sweet presence at my



table makes me so unusually expansive, that
I feel I must impart it in inviolable con-
fidence. What do you think Mr. Bazzard has
done?"

" Oh dear ! " cried Rosa, drawing her chair a
little nearer, and her mind reverting to Jasper,
" nothing dreadful, I hope ?"

" He has written a play," said Mr. Grewgious
in a solemn whisper. " A tragedy."

Rosa seemed much relieved.

" And nobody," pursued Mr. Grewgious in




MR. GREWGIOUS EXPERIENCES A KEW SEXSATIOX.



the same tone, " will hear, on any account what-
ever, of bringing it out."

Rosa looked reflective, and nodded her head
slowly ; as who should say, " Such things are,
and why are they?"

" Now, you know," said jNIr. Grewgious, " /
couldn't write a play."

" Not a bad one, sir? " said Rosa innocently,
with her eyebrows again in action.

" No. If I was under sentence of decapita-
tion, and was about to be instantly decapitated,
and an express arrived with a pardon for the



condemned convict Grewgious if he wrote a
play, I should be under the necessity of resum-
ing the block, and begging the executioner to
proceed to extremities, — meaning," said Mr.
Grewgious, passing his hand under his chin,
" the singular number, and this extremity."

Rosa appeared to consider what she would
do if the awkward supposititious case were
hers.

" Consequently," said Mr. Grewgious, '' Mr,
Bazzard would have a sense of my inferiority to
himself under any circumstances ; but when I



THE THORN OF ANXIETY.



lor



am his master, you know, the case is greatly
aggravated."

Mr. Grewgioiis shook his head seriously, as if
he felt the offence to be a little too much, though
of his own committing.

" How came you to be his master, sir ? " asked
Rosa.

" A question that naturally follows," said Mr.
Grewgious. " Let's talk ! Mr. Bazzard's father,
being a Norfolk farmer, would have furiously
laid about him with a flail, a pitchfork, and every
agricultural implement available for assaulting
purposes, on the slightest hint of his son's hav-
ing written a play. So the son, bringing to me
the father's rent (which I receive), imparted his
secret, and pointed out that he was determined
to pursue his genius, and that it would put him
in peril of starvation, and that he was not formed
for it."

" For pursuing his genius, sir ? "

" No, my dear," said Mr. Grewgious, " for
starvation. It was impossible to deny the posi-
tion, that Mr. Bazzard was not formed to be
starved, and Mr. Bazzard then pointed out that
it was desirable that I should stand between him
and a fate so perfectly unsuited to his formation.
In that way Mr. Bazzard became my clerk, and
he feels it very much."

" I am glad he is grateful," said Rosa.

" I didn't quite mean that, my dear. I mean
that he feels the degradation. There are some
other geniuses that Mr. Bazzard has become ac-
quainted with, who have also written tragedies,
which likewise nobody will on any account what-
ever hear of bringing out, and these choice spirits
dedicate their plays to one another 'in a highly
panegyrical manner. Mr. Bazzard has been the
subject of one of these dedications. Now, you
know, /never had a play dedicated to wt'.^"

Rosa looked at him as if she would have liked
him to be the recipient of a thousand dedi-
cations.

"Which again, naturally, rubs against the
grain of Mr. Bazzard," said Mr. Grewgious.
" He is very short with me sometimes, and then
I feel that he is meditating, ' This blockhead is
my master ! A fellow who couldn't write a tra-
gedy on pain of death, and who will never have
one dedicated to him with the most compli-
mentary congratulations on the high position
he has taken in the eyes of posterity ! ' Very
trying, very trying. However, in giving him
directions, I reflect beforehand : ' Perhaps he
may not like this,' or ' He might take it ill if I
asked that;' and so Ave get on very well. In-
deed, better than I could have expected."

" Is the tragedy named, sir ? " asked Rosa.



" Strictly between ourselves," answered Mr.
Grewgious, " it has a dreadfully appropriate
name. It is called The Thorn of Anxiety. But
Mr. Bazzard hopes — and 1 hope — that it will
come out at last."

It was not hard to divine that Mr. Grewgious
had related the Bazzard history thus fully, at
least quite as much for the recreation of his
ward's mind from the subject that had driven
her there, as for the gratification of his own
tendency to be social and communicative.

" And now, my dear," he said at this point,
" if you are not too tired to tell me more ot what
passed to-day — but only if you feel quite able —
I should be glad to hear it. 1 may digest it the
better if I sleep on it to-night."

Rosa, composed now, gave him a faithful
account of the interview. Mr. Grewgious often
smoothed his head while it was in progress, and
begged to be told a second time those parts
which bore on Helena and Neville. When Rosa
had finished, he sat grave, silent, and meditative
for awhile.

" Clearly narrated," Avas his only remark at
last, " and, I hope, clearly put away here,"
smoothing his head again. " See, my dear,"
taking her to the open window, " where they
live. The dark windows over yonder."

"I may go to Helena to-morrow?" asked
Rosa.

" I should like to sleep on that question to-
night," he answered doubtfully. " But let me
take you to your own rest, for you must need it."

With that Mr. Grewgious helped her to get
her hat on again, and hung upon his arm the
very little bag that was of no earthly use, and
led her by the hand (with a certain stately awk-
v/ardness, as if he were going to walk a minuet)
across Holborn, and into Furnival's Inn. At
the hotel door he confided her to the Unlimited
head chambermaid, and said that, while she
went up to see her room, he would remain
below, in case she should wish it exchanged for
another, or should find that there was anything
she Avanted.

Rosa's room was airy, clean, comfortable,
almost gay. The Unlimited had laid in every-
thing omitted from the very little bag (that is to
say, everything she could possibly need), and
Rosa tripped doAvn the great many stairs again,
to thank her guardian for his thoughtful and
affectionate care of her.

•' Not at all, my dear," said Mr. GrcAvgious,
infinitely gratified ; " it is I Avho thank you for
your charming confidence and for your charm-
ing company. Your breakfast Avill be provided
for you in a neat, compact, and graceful little



102



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN BROOD.



sitting-room (appropriate to your figure), and I
will come to you at ten o'clock in the morning.
I hope you don't feel very strange indeed in this
strange place."

" Oh no, I feel so safe ! "

" Yes, you may be sure that the stairs are
fire-proof," said Mr. Grewgious, " and that any
outbreak of the devouring element would be
perceived and suppressed by the watchmen."

" I did hot mean that," Rosa replied. " I
mean I feel so safe from him."

" There is a stout gate of iron bars to keep
him out," said Mr. Grewgious, smiling; "and
Furnival's is fire-proof, and specially watched
and lighted, and / live over the way." In the
stoutness of his knight-errantry, he seemed to
think the last-named protection all-sufficient.
In the same spirit he said to the gate-porter, as
he went out, " If some one staying in the hotel
should wish to send across the road to me in
the night, a crown will be ready for the messen-
ger." In the same spirit he walked up and
down outside the iron gate for the best part of
an hour, with some solicitude ; occasionally
looking in between the bars, as if he had laid a
dove in a high roost in a cage of lions, and had
it on his mind that she might tumble out.



CHAPTER XXI.

A RECOGNITION.

Nothing occurred in the night to
flutter the tired dove ; and the dove
arose refreshed. With Mr. Grew-
gious, when the clock struck ten in
the morning, came Mr. Crisparkle,
who had come at one plunge out of the
river at Cloisterham.

" Miss Twinkleton was so uneasy,
]\Iiss Rosa," he explained to her, " and came
round to ma and me with your note, in such a
state of wonder, that, to quiet her, I volunteered
on this service by the very first train to be
caught in the morning. I wished at the time
that you had come to me ; but now I think it
best that you did as you did, and came to your
guardian."

" I did think of you," Rosa told him ; " but

Minor Canon Corner was so near him "

" I understand. It was quite natural."

" I have told Mr. Crisparkle," said Mr.

Grewgious, " all that you told me last night,

my dear. Of course I should have written it to

him immediately; but his coming was most op-




portune. And it was particularly kind of him to
come, for he had but just gone."

" Have you settled," asked Rosa, appealing
to them both, " what is to be done for Helena
and her brother?"

" Why, really," said Mr. Crisparkle, " I am in



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 19 of 103)