Charles Dickens.

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

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great perplexity. If even Mr. Grewgious, whose
head is much longer than mine, and who is a
whole night's cogitation in advance of me, is
undecided, what must I be ? "

The Unlimited here put her head in at the
door — after having rapped, and been authorised
to present herself — announcing that a gentleman
wished for a word with another gentleman named
Crisparkle, if any such gentleman were there. If
no such gentleman were there, he begged par-
don for being mistaken.

" Such a gentleman is here," said Air. Cri-
sparkle, "but is engaged just now."

" Is it a dark gentleman ? " interposed Rosa,
retreating on her guardian.

" No, miss, more of a brown gentleman."

"You are sure not with black hair?" asked
Rosa, taking courage.

" Quite sure of that, miss. Brown hair and
blue eyes."

" Perhaps," hinted Mr. Grewgious with habi-
tual caution, " it might be well to see him,
reverend sir, if you don't object. When one is
in a difficulty or at a loss, one never knows in
what direction a way out may chance to open.
It is a business principle of mine, in such a case,
not to close up any direction, but to keep an
eye on every direction that may present itself.
I could relate an anecdote in point, but that it
would be premature."

" If ]\Iiss Rosa will allow me, then ? Let the
gentleman come in," said Mr. Crisparkle.

The gentleman came in ; apologised, with a
frank but modest grace, for not finding Mr.
Crisparkle alone ; turned to ]Mr. Crisparkle, and
smilingly asked the unexpected question : "Who
am I ? "

"You are the gentleman I saw smoking
under the trees in Staple Inn a few minutes
ago."

" True. There I saw you. Who else am I ? "

Mr. Crisparkle concentrated his attention on
a handsome face, much sunburnt ; and the
ghost of some departed boy seemed to rise,
gradually and dimly, in the room.

The gentleman saw a struggling recollection
lighten up the Minor Canon's features, and,
smiling again, said : " What will you have for
breakfast this morning ? You are out of
jam."

" Wait a moment ! " cried Mr. Crisparkle,



MR. GREWGIOUS HAS AN IDEA.



103



raising his right hand. " Give me another in-
stant ! Tartar ! "

The two shook hands with the greatest hearti-
ness, and tlien went the wonderful length — for
Englishmen — of laying their hands each on the
other's shoulders, and looking joyfully each into
the other's face.

" My old fag ! " said Mr. Crisparkle.

" ]\Iy old master ! " said Mr. Tartar.

" You saved me from drowning ! " said ]Mr.
Crisparkle.

"After which you took to swimming, you
know ! " said Mr. Tartar.

" God bless my soul ! " said Mr. Crisparkle.

" Amen ! " said Mr. Tartar.

And then they fell to shaking hands most
heartily again.

" Imagine," exclaimed Mr. Crisparkle witli
glistening eyes : " Miss Rosa Bud and Mr.
Grewgious, imagine Mr. Tartar, when he was
the smallest of juniors, diving for me, catching
me, a big heavy senior, by the hair of the head,
and striking out for the shore with me like a
water-giant ! "

" Imagine my not letting him sink, as I was
his fag ! " said Mr. Tartar. " But the truth
being that he was my best protector and friend,
and did me more good than all the masters put
together, an irrational impulse seized me to pick
him up, or go down with him."

" Hem ! Permit me, sir, to have the honour,"
said Mr. Grewgious, advancing with extended
hand, " for an honour I truly esteem it. I am
proud to make your acquaintance. I hope you
didn't take cold. I hope you were not incon-
venienced by swallowing too much water. How
have you been since ? "

It was by no means apparent that Mr. Grew-
gious knew what he said, though it was very
apparent that he meant to say something highly
friendly and appreciative.

If Heaven, Rosa thought, had but sent such
courage and skill to her poor mother's aid !
And he to have been so slight and young
then !

•' I don't wish to be complimented upon it, I
thank you ; but I think I have an idea," Mr.
Grewgious announced, after taking a jog-trot or
two across the room, so unexpected and un-
accountable that they all stared at him, doubt-
ful whether he was choking or had the cramp — " I
thitik I have an idea. I believe I have had the
pleasure of seeing Mr. Tartar's name as tenant
of the top set in the house next the top set in
the corner ? "

" Yes, sir," returned Mr. Tartar. " You are
right so far."



" I am right so far," said Mr. Grewgious.
" Tick that off ; " which he did, with his right
thumb on his left. " Might you happen to
know the name of your neighbour in the top set
on the other side of tlie party-wall ? " coming
very close to Mr. Tartar, to lose notliing of his
face in his shortness of sight.

" Landless."

" Tick that off," said Mr. Grewgious, taking
another trot, and then coming back, " No per-
sonal knowledge, I suppose, sir ? "

" Slight, but some."

" Tick that off," said Mr. Grewgious, taking
another trot, and again coming back. '• Nature
of knowledge, Mr. Tartar ? "

" I thought he seemed to be a young fellow
in a poor way, and I asked his leave — only
within a day or so — to share my flowers up there
with him ; that is to say, to extend my flower
garden to his windows."

" Would you have the kindness to take seats?"
said Mr. Grewgious. " I have an idea ! "

They complied : Mr. Tartar none the less
readily for being all abroad ; and Mr. Grew-
gious, seated in the centre, with his hands upon
his knees, thus stated his idea, with his usual
manner of having got the statement by heart :

" I cannot as yet make up my mind whether
it is prudent to hold open communication under
present circumstances, and on the part of the
fair member of the present company, with Mr.
Neville or Miss Helena. I have reason to
know that a local friend of ours (on whom I beg
to bestow a passing but a hearty malediction,
with the kind permission of my reverend friend)
sneaks to and fro, and dodges up and down.
When not doing so himself, he may have some
informant skulking about, in the person of a
watchman, porter, or such-like hanger-on of
Staple. On the other hand. Miss Rosa very
naturally wishes to see her friend Miss Helena,
and it would seem important that at least Miss
Helena (if not her brother too, through her)
should privately know from Miss Rosa's lips
what has occurred, and what has been threatened.
Am I agreed with generally in the views I take ?"

'' I entirely coincide with them," said Mr.
Crisparkle, who had been very attentive.

" As I have no doubt I should," added Mr.
Tartar, smiling, " if I understood them."

" Fair and softly, sir," said Mr. Grewgious ;
" we shall fully confide in you directly, if you
will favour us with your permission. Now, if
our local friend should have any informant on
the spot, it is tolerably clear that such informant
can only be set to watch the chambers in the
occupation of Mr. Neville. He reporting, to



104



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.



our local friend, who comes and goes there, our
local friend would supply for himself, from his
own previous knowledge, tlie identity of the
parties. Nobody can be set to watch all Staple,
or to concern himself with comers and goers
to other sets of chambers: unless, indeed,
mine."

" I begin to understand to what you tend,"
said Mr. Crisparkle, " and highly approve of
your caution."

" I needn't repeat that I know nothing yet of
the why and wherefore," said Mr. Tartar; "but
I also understand to what you tend, so let me
say at once that my chambers are freely at your
disposal."

" There ! " cried Mr. Grewgious, smoothing
his head triumphandy, " now we have all got the
idea. You have it, my dear?"

" I think I have," said Rosa, blushing a Httle
as Mr. Tartar looked (quickly towards her.

" You see, you go over to Staple with Mr.
Crisparkle and Mr. Tartar," said Mr. Grew-
gious ; " I going in and out, and out and in,
alone, in my usual way ; you go up with those
gentlemen to Vlx. Tartar's rooms ; you look into
^lr. Tartar's flower garden; you wait for Miss
Helena's appearance there, or you signify to
Miss Helena that you are close by; and you
communicate with her freely, and no spy can be
the wiser."

•' I am very much afraid I shall be "

" Be what, my dear ? " asked Mr. Grewgious
as she hesitated. " Not frightened ? "

" No, not that," said Rosa shyly ; " in Mr.
Tartar's way. We seem to be appropriating
Mr. Tartar's residence so very coolly."

" I protest to you," returned that gentleman,
" that I shall think the better of it for evermore,
if your voice sounds in it only once."

Rosa, not quite knowing what to say about
that, cast down her eyes, and, turning to Mr.
Grewgious, dutifully asked if she should put her
hat on ? Mr. Grewgious being of opinion that
she could not do better, she withdrew for the
purpose. Mr. Crisparkle took the opportunity
of giving Mr. Tartar a summary of the distresses
of Neville and his sister ; the opportunity was
quite long enough, as the hat happened to re-
quire a little extra fitdng on.

Mr. Tartar gave his arm to Rosa, and Mr.
Crisparkle walked, detached, in front.

" Poor, poor Eddy ! " thought Rosa as they
went along.

Mr. Tartar waved his right hand as he bent
his head down over Rosa, talking in an animated
wa\'.

" It was not so powerful or so sun-browned



when it saved Mr. Crisparkle," thought Rosa,
glancing at it ; " but it must have been very
steady and determined even then."

Mr. Tartar told her he had been a sailor,
roving everywhere for years and years.

" When are you going to sea again ? " asked
Rosa.

" Never ! "

Rosa wondered what the girls would say if
they could see her crossing the wide street on
the sailor's arm. And she fancied that the
passers-by must think her very little and very
helpless, contrasted with the strong figure that
could have caught her up and carried her out of
any danger, miles and miles without resting.

She was thinking, further, that his far-seeing
blue eyes looked as if they had been used to
watch danger afar off, and to w'atch it without
flinching, drawing nearer and nearer : when,
happening to raise her own eyes, she found that
he seemed to be thinking something about than.

This a little confused Rosebud, and may
account for her never afterwards quite knowing
how she ascended (with his help) to his garden
in the air, and seemed to get into a marvellous
country that came into sudden bloom like the
country on the summit of the magic bean-stalk.
May it flourish for ever !




CHAPTER XXn.

A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON.

'R. TARTAR'S chambers were the
neatest, the cleanest, and the best-
ordered chambers ever seen under
the sun, moon, and stars. The
floors were scrubbed to that extent,
that you might have supposed the Lon-
don blacks emancipated for ever, and
gone out of the land for good. Every
inch of brass-work in Mr. Tartar's possession
was polished and burnished till it shone like a
brazen mirror. No speck, nor spot, nor spatter
soiled the purity of any of Mr. Tartar's house-
hold gods, large, small, or middle-sized. His
sitting-room was like the admiral's cabin, his
bath-room was like a dairy, his sleeping-
chamber, fitted all about with lockers and
drawers, was like a seedsman's shop ; and his
nicely-balanced cot just stirred in the midst, as
if it breathed. Everything belonging to Mr.
Tartar had quarters of its own assigned to it :
his maps and charts had their quarters ; his
books had theirs ; his brushes had theirs ; his



IN THE COUNTRY OF THE MAGIC BEAN-STAIK.



'05



boots had theirs ; his clothes had theirs ; his
case-bottles had theirs ; his telescopes and
other instruments had theirs. Everything was
readily accessible. Shelf, bracket, locker, hook,
and drawer were equally within reach, and were
equally contrived with a view to avoiding waste
of room, and providing some snug inches of
stowage for something that would have exactly
fitted nowhere else. His gleaming little service
of plate was so arranged upon his sideboard
as that a slack salt-spoon would have instantly
betrayed itself; his toilet implements were so
arranged upon his dressing-table as that a tooth-
pick of slovenly deportment could have been
reported at a glance. So with the curiosities
he had brought home from various voyages.
Stuffed, dried, repolished, or otherwise pre-
served, according to their kind ; birds, fishes,
reptiles, arms, articles of dress, shells, seaweeds,
grasses, or memorials of coral reef; each was
displayed in its especial place, and each could
have been displayed in no better place. Paint
and varnish seemed to be kept somewhere out
of sight, in constant readiness to obliterate stray
finger-marks, wherever any might become per-
ceptible in Mr. Tartar's chambers. No man-of-
war was ever kept more spick and span from
careless touch. On this bright summer day a
neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tartar's flower
garden as only a sailor could rig it ; and there
was a sea-going air upon the whole effect, so
delightfully complete, that the flower garden
might have a])pertained to stern-windows afloat,
and the whole concern might have bowled away
gallantly with all on board, if Mr. Tartar had
only clapped to his lips the speaking trumpet
that was slung in a corner, and given hoarse
orders to heave the anchor up, look alive there,
men, and get all sail upon her !

Mr. Tartar doing the honours of this gallant
craft was of a piece with the rest. When a man
rides an amiable hobby that shies at nothing,
and kicks nobody, it is only agreeable to find
him riding it with a humorous sense of the droll
side of the creature. When the man is a cordial
and an earnest man by nature, and withal is
perfectly fresh and genuine, it may be doubted
whether he is ever seen to greater advantage
than at such a time. So Rosa would have
naturally thought (even if she hadn't been con-
ducted over the ship with all the homage due to
the First Lady of the Admiralty, or First Fairy
of the Sea) that it was charming to see and hear
Mr. Tartar half laughing at, and half rejoicing
in, his various contrivances. So Rosa would
have naturally thought, anyhow, that the sun-
burnt sailor showed to great advantage when,



the inspection finished, he delicately withdrew
out of his admiral's cabin, beseeching her to
consider herself its Queen, and waving her free
of his flower garden with the hand that had had
Mr. Crisparkle's life in it.

" Helena ! Helena Landless ! Are you
there ? "

" Who speaks to me? Not Rosa?" Then
a second handsome face appearing.

" Yes, my darling ! "

"Why, how did you come here, dearest?"

*' I — I don't quite know," said Rosa with a
blush ; " unless I am dreaming ! "

Why with a blush ? For their two faces were
alone with the other flowers. Are blushes
among the fruits of the country of the magic
bean-stalk ?

" / am not dreaming," said Helena, smiling.
" I should take more for granted if I were.
How do we come together — or so near together
— so very unexpectedly ? "

Unexpectedly indeed, among the dingy gables
and chimney-pots of P. J. T.'s connection, and
the flowers that had sprung from the salt sea.
But Rosa, waking, told in a hurry how they
came to be together, and all the why and
wherefore of that matter.

" And Mr. Crisparkle is here," said Rosa in
rapid conclusion ; " and, could you believe it ?
long ago he saved his life ! "

" I could believe any such thing of Mr. Cri-
sparkle," returned Helena with a mantling face.

(More blushes in the bean-stalk country !)

" Yes, but it wasn't Mr. Crisparkle," said
Rosa, quickly putting in the correction.

" I don't understand, love."

" It was very nice of Mr. Crisparkle to be
saved," said Rosa, " and he couldn't have shown
his high opinion of Mr. Tartar more expres-
sively. But it was Mr. Tartar who saved him."

Helena's dark eyes looked very earnestly at
the bright face among the leaves, and she asked
in a slower and more thoughtful tone :

" Is Mr. Tartar with you now, dear?"

" No ; because he has given up his rooms to
me — to us, I mean. It is such a beautiful
place ! "

"Is it?"

" It is like the inside of the most exquisite
ship that ever sailed. It is like — it is like "

" Like a dream ? " suggested Helena.

Rosa answered with a Httle nod, and smelled
the flowers.

Helena resumed after a short pause of silence,
during which she seemed (or it was Rosa's
fancy) to compassionate somebody: "My poor
Neville is reading in his own room, the sun



io6



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.



being so very bright on this side just now. I
think he had better not know that you are so
near."

" Oh, I think so too ! " cried Rosa very
readily.

" I suppose," pursued Helena doubtfully,
"that he must know by-and-by all you have
told me ; but I am not sure. Ask Mr. Cri-
sparkle's advice, my darling. Ask him whether
I may tell Neville as much or as little of what
you have told me as I think best."

Rosa subsided into her state cabin, and pro-
pounded the question. The Minor Canon was
for the free exercise of Helena's judgment.

" I thank him very much," said Helena when
Rosa emerged again with her report. " Ask
him whether it would be best to wait until any
more maligning and pursuing of Neville on the
part of this wretch shall disclose itself, or to try
to anticipate it : I mean, so far as to find out
whether any such goes on darkly about us?"

The Minor Canon found this point so difficult
to give a confident opinion on, that, after two
or three attempts and failures, he suggested a
reference to Mr. Grewgious. Helena acquies-
cing, he betook himself (with a most unsuccessful
assumption of lounging indifference) across the
quadrangle to P. J. T.'s, and stated it. Mr,
Grewgious held decidedly to the general prin-
ciple, that if you could steal a march upon a
brigand or a wild beast, you had better do it ;
and he also held decidedly to the special case,
that John Jasper was a brigand and a wild beast
in combination.

Thus advised, Mr. Crisparkle came back again
and reported to Rosa, who in her turn reported
to Helena. She now, steadily pursuing her
train of thought at her window, considered
thereupon.

" We may count on ]\Ir. Tartar's readiness to
help us, Rosa ? " she inquired.

Oh yes ! Rosa shyly thought so. Oh yes !
Rosa shyly believed she could almost answer
for it. But should she ask Mr. Crisparkle ?
" I think your authority on the point as good as
his, my dear," said Helena sedately, " and you
needn't disappear again for that." Odd of
Helena !

" You see, Neville," Helena pursued, after
more reflection, " knows no one else here : he
has not so much as exchanged a word with any
one else here. If Mr. Tartar would call to see
him openly and often ; if he would spare a
minute for the purpose frequently ; if he would
even do so almost daily ; something might come
of it."

" Something might come of it, dear ? " re-



peated Rosa, surveying her friend's beauty with
a highly-perplexed face. " Something might ? "

" If Neville's movements are really watched,
and if the purpose really is to isolate him from
all friends and acquaintance, and wear his daily
life out grain by grain (which would seem to be
the threat to you), does it not appear likely,"
said Helena, " that his enemy would in some
way communicate with Mr. Tartar to warn him
off from Neville ? In which case, we might not
only know the fact, but might know from Mr.
Tartar what the terms of the communication
were."

" I see ! " cried Rosa. And immediately
darted into her state cabin again.

Presently her pretty face reappeared, with a
greatly-heightened colour, and she said that she
had told Mr. Crisparkle, and that Mr. Crisparkle
had fetched in Mr. Tartar, and that Mr. Tartar
— " who is waiting now in case you want him,"
added Rosa, with a half-look back, and in not a
little confusion between the inside of the state
cabin and out — had declared his readiness to
act as she had suggested, and to enter on his
task that very day.

" I thank him from my heart," said Helena.
" Pray tell him so."

Again not a little confused between the Flower
Garden and the Cabin, Rosa dipped in with her
message, and dipped out again with more assur-
ances from Mr. Tartar, and stood wavering in a
divided state between Helena and him, which
proved that confusion is not always necessarily
awkward, but may sometimes present a very
pleasant appearance.

" And now, darling," said Helena, " we will
be mindful of the caution that has restricted us
to this interview for the present, and will part.
I hear Neville moving, too. Are you going
back ? "

" To Miss Twinkleton's ? " asked Rosa.

" Yes."

"Oh, I could never go there any more; I
couldn't, indeed, after that dreadful interview ! "
said Rosa.

" Then where are you going, pretty one ? "

" Now I come to think of it, I don't know,"
said Rosa. " I have settled nothing at all yet,
but my guardian will take care of me. Don't
be uneasy, dear. I shall be sure to be some-
where."

(It did seem likely.)

" And I shall hear of my Rosebud from Mr.
Tartar ? " inquired Helena.

" Yes, I suppose so ; from " Rosa looked

back again in a flutter, instead of supplying the
name. " But tell me one thing before we part,



BILLICKIN'S.



107



dearest Helena. Tell me that you are sure, sure,
sure, I couldn't help it."

" Help it, love ? "

" Help making him malicious and revenge-
ful. I couldn't hold any terms with him, could
1?"

" You know how I love you, darling," answered
Helena with indignation; "but I would sooner
see you dead at his wicked feet."

" That's a great comfort to me ! And you
will tell your poor brother so, won't you ? And
you will give him my remembrance and my
sympathv ? And you will ask him not to hate
me ? ■' '

With a mournful shake of the head, as if that
would be quite a superfluous entreaty, Helena
lovingly kissed her two hands to her friend, and
her friend's two hands were kissed to her ; and
then she saw a third hand (a brown one) appear
among the flowers and leaves, and help her
friend out of sight.

The refection that Mr. Tartar produced in the
Admiral's Cabin by merely touching the spring
knob of a locker and the handle of a drawer
was a dazzling, enchanted repast. Wonderful
macaroons, glittering liqueurs, magically -pre-
served tropical spices, and jellies of celestial
tropical fruits displayed themselves profusely at
an instant's notice. But I\Ir. Tartar could not
make time stand still ; and time, with his hard-
hearted fleelness, strode on so fast, that Rosa
was obliged to come down from the bean-stalk
country to earth and her guardian's chambers.

" And now, my dear," said Mr. Grewgious,
" what is to be done next ? To put the same
thought in another form : ^^ hat is to be done
with you ? "

Rosa could only look apologetically sensible
of being very much in her own way and in
everybody else's. Some passing idea of living,
fire-proof, up a good many stairs in Furnival's
Inn for the rest of her life, was the only thing
in the nature of a plan that occurred to her.

" It has come into my thoughts," said Mr.
Grewgious, " that as the respected lady. Miss
Twinkleton, occasionally repairs to London in
the recess, with the view of extending her con-
nection, and being available for interviews with
metropolitan parents, if any — whether, until we
have time in which to turn ourselves round, we
might invite ISIiss Twinkleton to come and stay
with you for a month ? "

" Stay where, sir?"

"Whether," explained Mr. Grewgious, "we
might take a furnished lodging in town for a
month, and invite Miss Twinkleton to assume
the charge of you in it for that period ? "



" And afterwards ? " hinted Rosa.

" And afterwards," said Mr. Grewgious, '* we
should be no worse off than we are now."

" I think that might smooth the way," assented
Rosa.

" Then let us," said Mr. Grewgious, rising,
" go and look for a furnished lodging. Nothing
could be more acceptable to me than the sweet
presence of last evening, for all the remaining
evenings of my existence ; but these are not fit
surroundings for a young lady. Let us set out
in quest of adventures, and look for a furnished
lodging. In the meantime, Mr. Crisparkle here,
about to return home immediately, will no doubt
kindly see Miss Twinkleton, and invite that lady
to co-operate in our plan."

Mr. Crisparkle, willingly accepting the com-
mission, took his departure ; Mr. Grewgious and
his ward set forth on their expedition.

As Mr. Grewgious's idea of looking at a fur-
nished lodging was to get on the opposite side
of the street to a house with a suitable bill in



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 20 of 103)