Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 66 of 103)
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and I paid it over to you ; and you won't wrap
it up in a napkin, nor yet in a towel, nor yet
pocketankercher, but you'll put it out at good
interest. Very well. Now, my brothers and
sisters and fellow-sinners, I am going to con-
clude with a question, and I'll make it so plam
(with the help of the Lord, after five-and-thirty
years, I should rather hope !) as that the Devil
shall not be able to confuse it in your heads, —
which he would be overjoyed to do."

(" Just his way ! Crafty old blackguard ! '
from Brother Gimblet.)

" And the question is this, Are the angels
learned ? "

(" Not they ! Not a bit on it ! " from Brother
Gimblet with the greatest confidence.)

"Not they! And where's the proof. ^ Sent
ready-made by the hand of the Lord. Why,
there's one among us here now that has got all
the learning that can be crammed into him. /
got him all the learning that could be crammed
into him. His grandfather" (this I had never
heard before) " was a brother of ours. He was
Brother Parksop. That's what he was. Park-
sop ; Brother Parksop. His worldly name was
Parksop, and he was a brother of this brother-
hood. Then wasn't he Brother Parksop ? "

(" Must be. Couldn't help hisself 1 " from
Brother Gimblet.)



BROTHER GIMBLETS PRAYER.



341



" Well, he left that one now here present
among us to the care of a brother sinner of his
(and that brother sinner, mind you, was a sinner
of a bigger size in his time than any of you ;
praise the Lord !), Brother Hawkyard. INIe. /
got him without fee or reward, — without a mor-
sel of myrrh, or frankincense, nor yet amber,
letting alone the honeycomb, — all the learning
that could be crammed into him. Has it
brought him into our temple, in the sjnrit?
No. Have we had any ignorant brothers and
sisters that didn't know round O from crooked
S, come in among us meanwhile ? Many. Then
the angels are not learned; then they don't so
much as know their alphabet. And now, my
friends and fellow-sinners, having brought it to
that, perhaps some brother present — perhaps
you, Brother Gimblet — will pray a bit for us } "

Brother Gimblet undertook the sacred func-
tion, after having drawn his sleeve across his
mouth, and muttered, " Well, I don't know as I
see my way to hitting any of you quite in the
right place neither." He said this with a dark
smile, and then began to bellow. What we
were specially to be preserved from, according
to his solicitations, was, despoilment of the
orphan, suppression of testamentary intentions
on the part of a father or (say) grandfather, ap-
propriation of the orphan's house property,
feigning to give in charity to the wronged one
from whom we withheld his due ; and that
class of sins. He ended with the petition,
" Give us peace ! " which, speaking for mj^self,
was very much needed after twenty minutes of
his bellowing.

Even though I had not seen him, when he
rose from his knees, steaming with perspiration,
glance at Brother Hawkyard, and even though
I had not heard Brother Hawkyard's tone of
congratulating him on the vigour with which he
had roared, I should have detected a malicious
application in this prayer. Unformed suspicions
to a similar effect had sometimes passed through
my mind in my earlier school days, and had
always caused me great distress ; for they were
worldly in their nature, and wide, very wide, of
the spirit that had drawn me from Sylvia. They
were sordid suspicions, without a shadow of
proof. They were worthy to have originated
in the unwholesome cellar. They were not only
without proof, but against proof; for w^as I not
myself a living proof of what Brother Hawkyard
had done ? and, without him, how should I ever
have seen the sky look sorrowfully down upon
that wretched boy at Hoghton Towers ?

Although the dread of a relapse into a stage
of savage selfishness was less strong upon me as



I approached manhood, and could act in an
increased degree for myself, yet I was always on
my guard against any tendency to such relapse.
After getting these suspicions under my feet, I
had been troubled by not being able to like
Brother Hawkyard's manner, or his professed
religion. So it came about that, as I walked
back that Sunday evening, I thought it would
be an act of reparation for any such injury my
struggling thoughts had unwillingly done him, if
I wrote, and placed in his hands, before going
to college, a full acknowledgment of his good-
ness to me, and an ample tribute of thanks. It
might serve as an implied vindication of him
against any dark scandal from a rival brother
and expounder, or from any other quarter.

Accordingly, I wrote the document with much
care. I may add, with much feeling too ; for it
affected me as I went on. Having no set
studies to pursue in the brief interval between
leaving the Foundation and going to Cambridge,
I determined to walk out to his place of busi-
ness, and give it into his own hands.

It was a winter afternoon when I tapped at
the door of his little counting-house, which was
at the farther end of his long, low shop. As I
did so (having entered by the back-yard, where
casks and boxes were taken in, and where there
was the inscription, " Private way to the count-
ing-house "), a shopman called to me from the
counter that he was engaged.

" Brother Gimblet " (said the shopman, who
Avas one of the brotherhood) " is with him."

I thought this all the better for my purpose,
and made bold to tap again. They were talk-
ing in a low tone, and money was passing ; for
I heard it being counted out.

"Who is it?" asked Brother Hawkyard
sharply.

" George Silverman," I answered, holding the
door open. " May I come in ? "

Both brothers seemed so astounded to see
me that I felt shyer than usual. But they
looked quite cadaverous in the early gas-light,
and perhaps that accidental circumstance exag-
gerated the expression of their faces.

" What is the matter ? " asked Brother Hawk-
yard.

" Ay ! what is the matter ? " asked Brother
Gimblet.

" Nothing at all," I said, diffidently producing
my document : " I am only the bearer of a
letter from myself."

"From yourself, George?" cried Brother
Hawkyard.

" And to you," said I.

" And to me. George ? "



342



GEORGE SILVERMAN'S EXPLANATION.



He turned paler, and opened it hurriedly;
but, looking over it, and seeing generally what it
was, became less hurried, recovered his colour,
and said, " Praise the Lord ! "

" That's it ! " cried Brother Gimblet. " Well
put ! Amen."

Brother Hawkyard then said, in a livelier
strain, " You must know, George, that Brother
Gimblet and I are going to make our two busi-
nesses one. We are going into partnership.
We are settling it now. Brother Gimblet is to
take one clear half of the profits (oh yes ! he
shall have it; he shall have it to the last
farthing)."

" D. V. ! " said Brother Gimblet, with his
right fist firmly clinched on his right leg.

" There is no objection," pursued Brother
Hawkyard, " to my reading this aloud, George ?"

As it was what I expressly desired should be
done, after yesterday's prayer, I more than
readily begged him to read it aloud. He did so ;
and Brother Gimblet listened with a crabbed
smile.

" It was in a good hour that I came here," he
said, wrinkling up his eyes. " It was in a good
hour, likewise, that I was moved yesterday to
depict for the terror of evil-doers a character the
direct opposite of Brother Hawkyard's. But it
was the Lord that done it ; I felt him at it while
I was perspiring."

After that it was proposed by both of them
that I should attend the congregation once more
before my final departure. What my shy reserve
would undergo, from being expressly preached
at and prayed at, I knew beforehand. But I
reflected that it would be for the last time, and
that it might add to the weight of my letter. It
was well known to the brothers and sisters that
there was no place taken for me in their para-
dise ; and if I showed this last token of deference
to Brother Hawkyard, notoriously in despite of
my own sinful inclinations, it might go some
little way in aid of my statement that he had
been good to me, and that I was grateful to
him. Merely stipulating, therefore, that no ex-
f)rcss endeavour should be made for my conver-
sion, — which would involve the rolling of several
brothers and sisters on the floor, declaring that
they felt all their sins in a heap on their left
side, weighing so many pounds avoirdupois, as
I knew from what I had seen of those repulsive
mysteries, — I promised.

Since the reading of my letter. Brother Gim-
blet had been at intervals wiping one eye with an
end of his spotted blue neckerchief, and grinning
to himself. It was, however, a habit that brother
had to grin in an ugly manner even when ex-



pounding. I call to mind a delighted snarl with
which he used to detail from the platform the
torments reserved for the wicked (meaning all
human creation except the brotherhood), as being
remarkably hideous.

I left the two to settle their articles of part-
nership and count money ; and I never saw them
again but on the following Sunday. Brother
Hawkyard died within two or three years, leav-
ing all he possessed to Brother Gimblet, in virtue
of a will dated (as I have been told) that very
day.

Now, I was so far at rest with myself, when
Sunday came, knowing that I had conquered my
own mistrust, and righted Brother Hawkyard in
the jaundiced vision of a rival, that I went, even
to that coarse chapel, in a less sensitive state
than usual. How could I foresee that the deli-
cate, perhaps the diseased, corner of my mind,
where I winced and shrunk when it was touched,
or was even approached, would be handled as
the theme of the whole proceedings ?

On this occasion it was assigned to Brother
Hawkyard to pray, and to Brother Gimblet to
preach. The prayer was to open the ceremo-
nies ; the discourse was to come next. Brothers
Hawkyard and Gimblet were both on the plat-
form ; Brother Hawkyard on his knees at the
table, unmusically ready to pray ; Brother Gim-
blet sitting against the wall, grinningly ready to
preach.

" Let us offer up the sacrifice of prayer, my
brothers and sisters and fellow-sinners." Yes ;
but it was I who was the sacrifice. It w^as our
poor, sinful, worldly-minded brother here present
who was wrestled for. The now-opening career
of this our unawakened brother might lead to his
becoming a minister of what was called " the
church." That was what he looked to. The
church. Not the chapel. Lord. The church. No
rectors, no vicars, no archdeacons, no bishops,
no archbishops, in the chapel, but, O Lord !
many such in the church. Protect our sinful
brother from his love of lucre. Cleanse from
our unawakened brother's breast his sin of
worldly-mindedness. The prayer said infinitely
more in words, but nothing more to any intel-
ligible effect.

Then Brother Gimblet came forward, and
took (as I knew he would) the text, "My king-
dom is not of this world." Ah ! but whose was,
my fellow-sinners ? Whose ? Why, our brother's
here present was. The only kingdom he had
an idea of was of this world. (" That's it ! "
from several of the congregation.) What did
the woman do when she lost the piece of money?
Went and looked for it. What should our



AT COLLEGE.



343



brother do when he lost his way ? ("Go and
look for it," from a sister.) Go and look for it,
true. But must he look for it in the right direc-
tion, or in the ■wrong? (" In the right," from a
brother.) There spake the prophets ! He must
look for it in the right direction, or he couldn't
find it. But he had turned his back upon the
right direction, and he wouldn't find it. Now,
my fellow-sinners, to show you the difference
betwixt worldly -mindedness and unworldly-
mindedness, betwixt kingdoms not of this world
and kingdoms of this world, here was a letter
wrote by even our worldly-minded brother
unto Brother Hawkyard. Judge, from hear-
ing of it read, whether Brother Hawkyard was
the faithful steward that the Lord had in his
mind only t'other day, when, in this very place,
he drew you the picter of the unfaithful one ; for it
was him that done it, not me. Don't doubt that ! "
Brother Gimblet then groaned and bellowed
his way through my composition, and subse-
quently through an hour. The service closed
with a hymn, in which the brothers unanimously
roared, and the sisters unanimously shrieked at
me, That I by wiles of worldly gain was mocked,
and they on waters of sweet love were rocked :
that I with mammon struggled in the dark, while
they were floating in a second ark.

I went out from all this with an aching heart
and a weary spirit : not because I was quite so
weak as to consider these narrow creatures inter-
preters of the Divine Majesty and Wisdom, but
because I was weak enough to feel as though it
were my hard fortune to be misrepresented and
misunderstood, when I most tried to subdue any
risings of mere worldlinsss within me, and when
I most hoped that, by dint of trying earnestly, I
had succeeded.



SEVENTH CHAPTER.

Mv timidity and my obscurity occasioned me
to live a secluded life at college, and to be little
known. No relative ever came to visit me,
for I had no relative. No intimate friends
broke in upon my studies, for I made no inti-
mate friends. I supported myself on my scholar-
ship, and read much. My college -time was
otherwise not so very different from my time at
Hoghton Towers.

Knowing myself to be unfit for the noisier stir
of social existence, but believing myself qualified
to do my duty in a moderate, though earnest
way, if I could obtain some small preferment in
the Church, I applied my mind to the clerical
profession. In due sequence I took orders, was
ordained, and began to look about me for em-



ployment. I must observe that I had taken a
good degree, that I had succeeded in winning
a good fellowship, and that my means were
ample for my retired way of life. By this time I
had read with several young men ; and the occu-
pation increased my income, while it was highly
interesting to me. I once accidentally over-
heard our greatest don say, to my boundless joy,
" That he heard it reported of Silverman that
his gift of quiet explanation, his patience, his
amiable temper, and his conscientiousness made
him the best of coaches." May my "gift of
quiet explanation " come more seasonably and
powerfully to my aid in this present explanation
than I think it will !

It may be in a certain degree owing to the
situation of my college rooms (in a corner where
the daylight was sobered), but it is in a much
larger degree referable to the state of my own
mind, that I seem to myself, on looking back to
this time of my life, to have been always in the
peaceful shade. I can see others in the sun-
light ; I can see our boats' crews and our athletic
young men on the glistening water, or speckled
with the moving lights of sunlit leaves ; but I
myself am always in the shadow looking on.
Not unsympathetically, — God forbid ! — but look-
ing on alone, much as I looked at Sylvia from
the shadows of the ruined house, or looked at
the red gleam shining through the farmer's win-
dows, and listened to the fall of dancing feet,
when all the ruin was dark that night in the
quadrangle.

I now come to the reason of my quoting that
laudation of myself above given. Without such
reason, to repeat it would have been mere
boastfulness.

Among those who had read with me was Mr.
Fareway, second son of Lady Fareway, widow
of Sir Gaston Fareway, Baronet. This young
gentleman's abilities were much above the
average ; but he came of a rich family, and was
idle and luxurious. He presented himself to
me too late, and afterwards came to me too
irregularly, to admit of my being of much ser-
vice to him. In the end, I considered it my
duty to dissuade him from going up for an ex-
amination which he could never pass ; and he
left college without a degree. After his depar-
ture. Lady Fareway wrote to me, representing
the justice of my returning half my fee, as I had
been of so little use to her son. Within my
knowledge a similar demand had not been made
in any other case; and I most freely admit that
the justice of it had not occurred to me until it
was pointed out. But I at once perceived it,
yielded to it, and returned the money.



344



GEORGE SILVERMAN'S EXPLANATION.



Mr. Fareway had been gone two years or
more, and I had forgotten him, when he one
day walked into my rooms as I was sitting at
my books.

Said he, after the usual salutations had passed,
" Mr. Silverman, my mother is in town here, at
the hotel, and wishes me to present you to her."

I was not comfortable with strangers, and I
dare say I betrayed that I was a little nervous
or unwilling. " For," said he, without my hav-
ing spoken, " I think the interview may tend to
the advancement of your prospects."

It put me to the blush to think that I should
be tempted by a worldly reason, and I rose
immediately.

Said Mr. Fareway, as we went along, " Are
you a good hand at business ? "

" I think not," said I.

Said Mr. Fareway then, " My mother is."

"Truly," said I.

" Yes : my mother is what is usually called a
managing woman. Doesn't make a bad thing,
for instance, even out of the spendthrift habits
of my eldest brother abroad. In short, a
managing vvoman. This is in confidence."

He had never spoken to me in confidence,
and I was surprised by his doing so. I said I
should respect his confidence, of course, and
said no more on the delicate subject. We had
but a little way to walk, and I was soon in his
mother's company. He presented me, shook
hands with me, and left us two (as he said) to
business.

I saw in my Lady Fareway a handsome, well-
preserved lady of somewhat large stature, with a
steady glare in her great round dark eyes that
embarrassed me.

Said my lady, '' I have heard from my son,
Mr. Silverman, that you would be glad of some
preferment in the church."

I gave my lady to understand that was so.

" I don't know whether you are aware," my
lady proceeded, " that we have a presentation
to a living ? I say luc have ; but, in point of
fact, /have."

I gave my lady to understand that I had not
been aware of this.

Said my lady, " So it is : indeed, I have two
presentations, — one to two hundred a year, one
to six. Both livings are in our county, — North
Devonshire, — as you probably know. The first
is vacant. Would you like it ? "

What with my lady's eyes, and what with the
suddenness of this proposed gift, I was much
confused.

" I am sorry it is not the larger presentation,"
said my lady rather coldly; " though I will not,



Mr. Silverman, pay you the bad compliment of
supposing that you are, because that would be
mercenary, — and mercenary I am persuaded you
are not."

Said I, with my utmost earnestness, " Thank
you. Lady Fareway, thank you, thank you ! I
should be deeply hurt if I thought I bore the
character."

" Naturally," said my lady. " Always de-
testable, but particularly in a clergyman. You
have not said whether you will like the living?"

With apologies for my remissness or indis-
tinctness, I assured my lady that I accepted it
most readily and gratefully. I added that I
hoped she would not estimate my appreciation
of the generosity of her choice by my flow of
words ; for I was not a ready man in that
respect when taken by surprise or touched at
heart.

" The affair is concluded," said my lady ;
" concluded. You will find the duties very
light, Mr. Silverman. Charming house; charm-
ing little garden, orchard, and all that. You
will be able to take pupils. By-the-bye ! No :
I will return to the word afterwards. What was
I going to mention, when it put me out ? "

My lady stared at me, as if I knew. And I
didn't know. And that perplexed me afresh.

Said my lady, after some consideration, " Oh,
of course, how very dull of me ! The last in-
cumbent, — least mercenary man I ever saw, —
in consideration of the duties being so light and
the house so deHcious, couldn't rest, he said,
unless I permitted him to help me with my cor-
respondence, accounts, and various little things
of that kind ; nothing in themselves, but which
it worries a lady to cope with. Would Mr.
Silverman also like to ? Or shall I ?"

I hastened to say that my poor help would be
always at her ladyship's service.

" I am absolutely blessed," said my lady,
casting up her eyes (and so taking them oft" of
me for one moment), " in having to do with
gentlemen who cannot endure an approach to
the idea of being mercenary ! " She shivered at
the word. "And now as to the pupil."

" The ? " I was quite at a loss.

" Mr. Silverman, you have no idea what she
is. She is," said my lady, laying her touch upon
my coat-sleeve, " I do verily believe, the most
extraordinary girl in this world. Already knows
more Greek and Latin than Lady Jane Grey.
And taught herself! Has not yet, remember,
derived a moment's advantage from Mr. Silver-
man's classical acquirements. To say nothing
of mathematics, which she is bent upon becom-
ing versed in, and in which (as I hear from my



ADELINA.



345



son and others) Mr. Silverman's reputation is so
deservedly high ! "

Under my lady's eyes I must have lost the
clue, I felt persuaded ; and yet I did not know
where I could have dropped it.

"Adelina," said my lady, "is my only
daughter. If I did not feel cjuite convinced
that I am not blinded by a mother's partiality;
unless I was absolutely sure that when you
know her, Mr. Silverman, you will esteem it a
high and unusual privilege to direct her studies,
— I should introduce a mercenary element
into this conversation, and ask you on what
terms "

I entreated my lady to go no further. ]\Iy
lady saw that I was troubled, and did me the
honour to comply with my recjuest.



EIGHTH CHAPTER.

Everything in mental acquisition that her
brother might have been, if he would, and
everything in all gracious charms and admirable
qualities that no one but herself could be, — this
was Adelina.

I will not expatiate upon her beauty ; I will
not expatiate upon her intelligence, her quick-
ness of perception, her powers of memory, her
sweet consideration, from the first moment, for
the slow-paced tutor who ministered to her won-
derful gifts. I was thirty then ; I am over sixty
now : she is ever present to me in these hours as
she was in those, bright and beautiful and young,
wise and fanciful and good.

When I discovered that I loved her, how can
I say ? In the first day ? in the first week ? in
the first month ? Impossible to trace. If I be
(as I am) unable to represent to myself any
previous period of my life as quite separable
irom her attracting power, how can I answer for
this one detail ?

Whensoever I made the discovery, it laid a
heavy burden on me. And yet, comparing it
with the far heavier burden that I afterwards
took up, it does not seem to me now to have
been very hard to bear. In the knowledge that
I did love her, and that I should love her while
my life lasted, and that I was ever to hide my
secret deep in my own breast, and she was never
to find it, there was a kind of sustaining joy or
pride, or comfort, mingled with my pain.

But later on, — say, a year later on, — when I
made another discovery, then indeed my suffer-
ing and my struggle were strong. That other
discovery was

These words will never see the light, if ever, |



until my heart is dust ; until her bright spirit has
returned to the regions of which, when impri-
soned here, it surely retained some unusual
glimpse of remembrance ; until all the pulses
that ever beat around us shall have long been
quiet ; until all the fruits of all the tiny victories
and defeats achieved in our lilUe breasts shall
have withered away. That discovery was that
she loved me.

She may have enhanced my knowledge, and
loved me for that ; she may have over-valued my
discharge of duty to her, and loved me for that ;
she may have refined upon a playful compassion
which she would sometimes show for what she
called my want of wisdom, according to the light
of the world's dark lanterns, and loved me for
that ; she may — she must — have confused the
borrowed light of what I had only learned, with
its brightness in its pure, original rays ; but she
loved me at that time, and she made me
know it.

Pride of family and pride of wealth put me as
far otf from her in my lady's eyes as if I had
been some domesticated creature of another
kind. But they could not put me farther from
her than I put myself when I set my merits



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 66 of 103)