Charles Dickens.

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

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spoke of having got among the angels ! So I
did ! "

Rosa felt what his next memorandum would
prove to be, and was blushing and folding a
crease in her dress with one embarrassed hand,
long before he found it.
• "* Marriage.' Hem!" Mr. Grewgious car-



ried his smoothing hand down over his eyes and
nose, and even chin, before drawing his chair a
little nearer, and speaking a little more confi-
dentially : " I now touch, my dear, upon the
point that is the direct cause of my troubling
you with the present visit. Otherwise, being a
particularly Angular man, I should not have
intruded here. I am the last man to intrude
into a sphere for which I am so entirely un-
fitted. 1 feel, on these premises, as if I was a
bear — with the cramp — in a youthful Cotillon."

His ungainliness gave him enough of the air
of his simile to set Rosa off laughing heartily.

" It strikes you in the same light," said Mr.
Grewgious with perfect calmness. "Just so.
To return to my memorandum. Mr. Edwin
has been to and fro here, as was arranged.
You have mentioned that in your quarterly
letters to me. And you like him, and he likes
you."

" I like him very much, sir," rejoined Rosa.

" So I said, my dear," returned her guardian,
for whose ear the timid emphasis was much too
fine. " Good. And you correspond."

" We write to one another," said Rosa, pout-
ing, as she recalled their epistolary differences.

" Such is the meaning that I attach to the
word ' correspond ' in this application, my
dear," said Mr. Grewgious. *' Good. All goes
well, time works on, and at this next Christmas-
time it will become necessary, as a matter of
form, to give the exemplary lady in the corner
window, to whom we are so much indebted,
business notice of your departure in the ensuing
half-year. Your relations with her are far more
than business relations, no doubt ; but a residue
of business remains in them, and business is
business ever. I am a particularly Angular
man," proceeded Mr. Grewgious, as if it sud-
denly occurred to him to mention it, "and I am
not used to give anything away. If, for these
two reasons, some competent Proxy would give
yoic away, I should take it very kindly."

Rosa intimated, with her eyes on the ground,
that she thought a substitute might be found, if
required,

"Surely, surely," said Mr. Grewgious. "For
instance, the gentleman who teaches Dancing
here — he would know how to do it with grace-
ful propriety. He would advance and retire in
a manner satisfactory to the feelings of the
officiating clergyman, and of yourself, and the
bridegroom, and all i:)arties concerned. I am —
I am a particularly Angular man," said Mr.
Grewgious, as if he had made up his mind to
screw it out at last, "and should only blunder."
Rosa sat still and silent. Perhaps her mind



AN ANGULAR SUBJECT.



39



had not got quite so far as the ceremony yet,

but was lagging on the way there.

" Memorandum, ' Will.' Now, my dear," said
Mr. Grewgious, referring to his notes, disposing
of " Marriage " with his pencil, and taking a
paper from his pocket : " although I have before
possessed you with the contents of your father's
will, I think it right at this time to leave a certi-
fied copy of it in your hands. And although
Mr. Eilwin is also aware of its contents, I think
it right at this time likewise to place a certified
copy of it in Mr. Jasper's hand "'

"Not in his own?" asked Rosa, looking up
quickly. " Cannot the copy go to Eddy him-
self?"

" Why, yes, my dear, if you particularly wish
it ; but I spoke of Mr. Jasper as being his
trustee."

" I do particularly wish it, if you please," said
Rosa hurriedly and earnestly ; " I don't like
Mr. Jasper to come between us in any way."

"It is natural, I suppose," said Mr. Grew-
gious, " that your young husband should be all
m all. Yes. You observe that I say, I sup-
pose. The fact is, I am a particularly Un-
natural man, and I don't know from my own
knowledge."

Rosa looked at him with some wonder.

" I mean," he explained, " that young ways
were never my ways, I was the only offspring
of parents far advanced in life, and I half be-
lieve I was born advanced in life myself. No
personality is intended towards the name you
will so soon change, when I remark that while
the general growth of people seem to have come
into existence buds, I seem to have come into
existence a chip. I was a chip — and a very dry
one — when I first became aware of myself.
Respecting the other certified copy, your wish
shall be complied with. Respecting your in-
heritance, I think you know all. It is an
annuity of two hundred and fifty pounds. The
savings upon that annuity, and some other
items to your credit, all duly carried to account,
with vouchers, will place you in possession of a
lump-sum of money rather exceeding Seventeen
Hundred Pounds. I am empowered to advance
the cost of your preparations for your n.arriage
out of that fund. All is told."

" Will you please tell me," said Rosa, taking
the paper with a prettily-knitted brow, but not
opening it, " whether I am right in what I am
going to say? I can understand what you tell
me, so very much better than what I read in
Law-writings. My poor papa and Eddy's father
made their agreement together, as very dear
and firm and last friends, in order that we, too,



might be very dear and firm and fast friends
after them."

"Just so."

" For the lasting good of both of us, and the
lasting happiness of both of us ? "

" Just so."

" That we might be to one another even much
mone than they had been to one another ? "

" Just so."

" It was not bound upon Eddy, and it was
not bound upon me, by any forfeit, in case "

" Don't be agitated, my dear. In the case
that it brings tears into your affectionate eyes
even to picture to yourself — in the case of your
not marrying one another — no, no forfeiture on
either side. You would then have been my
ward until you were of age. No worse would
have befallen you. Bad enough, perhaps !"

" And Eddy ? "

" He would have come into his partnership
derived from his father, and into its arrears to
his credit (if any), on attaining his majority,
just as now."

Rosa, with her perplexed face and knitted
brow, bit the corner of hei attested copy, as she
sat with her head on one side, looking ab-
stractedly on the floor, and smoothing it with
her foot.

" in short," said Mr. Grewgious, " this be-
trothal is a wish, a sentiment, a friendly project,
tenderly expressed on both sides. That it was
strongly felt, and that there was a lively hope
that it would prosper, there can be no doubt.
When you were both children, you began to be
accustomed to it, and it has prospered. But
circumstances alter cases ; and I made this
visit to-day, pardy, indeed principally, to dis-
charge jnyself of the duty of telling you, my
dear, that two young people can only be be-
trothed in marriage (except as a matter of con-
venience, and therefore mockery and misery) of
their own free-will, their own attachment, and
their own assurance (it may or it may not prove
a mistaken one, but we must take our chance of
that), that they are suited to each other, and
will make each other happ)^ • Is it to be sup-
posed, for example, that if either of j'our fathers
were living now, and had any mistrust on that
subject, his mind would not be changed by the
change of circumstances involved in the change
of your years ? Untenable, unreasonable, in-
conclusive, and preposterous ! "

Mr. Grewgious said all this as if he were
reading it aloud ; oj, still more, as if he were
repeating a lesson. So expressionless of any
approach to spontaneity were his face and
manner.



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN BROOD.



" I have now, my dear," he added, blurring

out " Will " with his pencil, " discharged myself
of what is doubtless a formal duty in this case,
but still a duty in such a case. Memorandum,
' Wishes.' jNIy dear, is there any wish of yours
that I can further?"

Rosa shook her head with an almost plaintive
air of hesitation in want of help.

" Is there any instruction that I can take
from you with reference to your affairs ? "

" I — I should like to settle them with Eddy
first, if you please." said Rosa, plaiting the
crease in her dress.

" Surely, surely," returned Mr. Grewgious.
" You two should be of one mind in all things.
Is the young gentleman expected shortly ? "

" He has gone away only this morning. He
will be back at Christmas."

" Nothing could happen better. You will,
on his return at Christmas, arrange all matters
of detail with him ; you will then communicate
with me ; and I will discharge myself (as a
mere business acquittance) of my business
responsibilities towards the accomplished lady
in the corner window. They will accrue
at that season." Blurring pencil once again.
" Memorandum, ' Leave.' Yes. I will now,
my dear, take my leave."

"Could I," said Rosa, rising, as he jerked
out of his chair in his ungainly way : "could I
ask you most kindly to come to me at Christ-
mas, if I had anything particular to say to
you ? "

"Why, certainly, certainly," he rejoined;
apparently — if such a word can be used of one
who had no apparent lights or shadows about
him — complimented by the question. " As a
particularly Angular man, I do not fit smoothly
into the social circle, and consequently I have
no other engagement at Christmas-time than to
partake, on the twenty-fifth, of a boiled turkey and
celery sauce with a — with a particularly Angular
clerk I have the good fortune to possess, whose
father, being a Norfolk farmer, sends him up
(the turkey up), as a present to me, from the
neighbourhood of Norwich. I should be quite
proud of your wishing to see me, my dear. As
a professional Receiver of rents, so very few
people do wish to see me, that the novelty
would be bracing."

For his ready acquiescence the grateful Rosa
put her hands upon his shoulders, stood on tip-
toe, and instantly kissed him.

" Lord bless me ! " cried Mr. Grewgious.
" Thank you, my dear ! The honour is almost
equal to the pleasure. Miss Twinkleton,
madam, I have had a most satisfactory conver-



sation with my ward, and I will now release you
from the encumbrance of my presence."

" Nay, sir," rejoined Miss Twinkleton, rising
with a gracious condescension : " say not en-
cumbrance. Not so, by any means. I cannot
permit you to say so."

" Thank you, madam. I have read in the
newspapers," said Mr. Grewgious, stammering a
little, " that when a distinguished visitor (not
that I am one : i'ar from it) goes to a school
(not that this is one : far from it), lie asks for a
holiday or some sort of grace. It being now
the afternoon in the — College — of which you are
the eminent head, the young ladies might gain
nothing, except in name, by having the rest of
the day allowed them. But if there is any
young lady at all under a cloud, might I
solicit "

" Ah, Mr. Grewgious, Mr. Grewgious ! " cried
Miss Twinkleton with a chastely-rallying fore-
finger. " Oh, you gentlemen, you gentlemen !
Fie for shame, that you are so hard upon us
poor maligned disciplinarians of our sex, for
your sakes ! But as Miss Ferdinand is at pre-
sent weighed down by an incubus " — Miss
Twinkleton might have said a pen-and-ink-
ubus of writing out Monsieur La Fontaine —
" go to her, Rosa my dear, and tell her the
penalty is remitted, in deference to the interces-
sion of your guardian, Mr. Grewgious."

Miss Twinkleton here achieved a curtsy, sug-
gestive of marvels happening to her respected
legs, and which she came out of nobly, three
yards behind her starting-point.

As he held it incumbent upon him to call
on Mr. Jasper before leaving Cloisterham, Mr.
Grewgious went to the gate-house, and climbed
its postern-stair. But Mr. Jasper's door being
closed, and presenting on a slip of paper the
word " Cathedral," the fact of its being service-
time was borne into the mind of Mr. Grew-
gious. So he descended the stair again, and,
crossing the Close, paused at the great western
folding door of the cathedral, which stood open
on the fine and bright, though short-lived, after-
noon, for the airing of the place.

" Dear me," said Mr. Grewgious, peeping in,
"it's like looking down the throat of Old Time."

Old Time heaved a mouldy sigh from tomb
and arch and vault ; and gloomy shadows began
to deepen in corners ; and damps began to rise
from green patches of stone ; and jewels, cast
upon the pavement of the nave from stained
glass by the declining sun, began to perish.
Within the grill-gate of the chancel, up the steps
surmounted loomingly by the fast-darkening
organ, white robes could be dimly seen, and



THE GUARDIAN AND TRUSTEE.



41



one feeble voice, rising and falling in a cracked
monotonous mutter, coukl at intervals be faintly
heard. In the free outer air, the river, the
green pastures, and the brown arable lands,
the teeniing hills and dales, were reddened by
the sunset : while the distant little windows in
windmills and farm homesteads shone, patches
of bright beaten gold. In the cathedral all be-
came grey, murky, and sepulchral, and the
cracked monotonous mutter went on like a
dying voice, until the organ and the choir burst
forth, and drowned it in a sea of music. Then,
the sea fell, and the dying voice made another
feeble effort, and then the sea rose high, and
beat its life out, and lashed the roof, and
surged among the arches, and pierced the
heights of the great tower ; and then the sea
was dry, and all was still.

Mr. Grewgious had by that time walked to
the chancel steps, where he met the living
waters coming out.

" Nothing is the matter ? " Thus Jasper
accosted hira rather quickly. " You have not
been sent fcvr ? "

" Not at all, not at all. I came down of my
own accord. I have been to my pretty ward's,
and am now homeward bound again."

" You found her thriving ? "

" Blooming indeed. Most blooming. I
merely came to tell her, seriously^ what a
betrotiial by deceased parents is."

"And what is it — according to your judg-
ment? "

Mr. Grewgious noticed the whiteness of the
lips that asked the question, and put it down to
the chilling account of the cathedral.

" I merely came to tell her that it could not
be considered binding, against any such reason
for its dissolution as a want of affection, or want
of disposition to carry it into effect, on the side
of either party.'

" i\Iay I ask, had you any especial reason for
telling her that ? "

Mr. Grewgious answered somewhat sharply :
" The especial reason of doing my duty, sir.
Simply that." Then he added : " Come, Mr.
Jasper ; I know your affection for your nephew,
and that you are quick to feel on his behalf. I
assure you that this implies not the least doubt
of, or disrespect to, your nephew."

" You could not," returned Jasper, with a
friendly pressure of his arm, as they walked on
side by side, " speak more handsomely."

Mr. Grewgious pulled off his hat to smooth
his head, and, having smoothed it, nodded it
contentedly, and put his hat on again.

" I will wager," said Jasper, smiling — his lips



were still so white that he was conscious of it,
and bit and moistened them while speaking,
" I will wager that she hinted no wish to be
released from Ned."

" And you will win your wager, if you do,"
retorted Mr. Grewgious. " We should allow-
some margin for little maidenly delicacies in a
young motherless creature under such circum-
stances, I suppose ; it is not in my line ; what
do you think ? "

" There can be no doubt of it."

" I am glad you say so. Because," proceeded
Mr. Grewgious, who had all this time very
knowingly felt his way round to action on his
remembrance of what she had said of Jasper
himself: "because she seems to have some
little delicate instinct that all preliminary
arrangements had best be made between Mr.
Edwin Drood and herself, don't you see? She
don't want us, don't you know ? "

Jasper touched himself on the breast, and
said, somewhat indistinctly : " You mean me."

Mr. Grewgious touched himself on the breast,
and said : " I mean us. Therefore, let them
have their little discussions and councils to-
gether, when Mr. Edwin Drood comes back
here at Christmas ; and then you and I will
step in, and put the final touches to the busi-
ness."

" So you settled with her that you would
come back at Christmas?' observed Jasper. " I
see ! Mr. Grewgious, as you quite fairly said
just now, there is such an exceptional attach-
ment between my nephew and me, that I am
more sensitive for the dear, fortunate, happy,
happy fellow than for myself. But it is only
right that the young lady should be considered
as you have pointed out, and that I should
accept my cue from you. I accept it. I
understand that at Christmas they will com-
plete their preparations for May, and that their
marringe will be put in final train by themselves,
and that nothing will remain for us but to put
ourselves in train also, and have everydiing
ready for our formal release from our trusts on
Edwin's birthday."

"That is my understanding," assented Mr.
Grewgious as they shook hands to part. " God
bless them both ! "

" God save them both ! " cried Jasper.

" I said, bless them," remarked the former,
looking back over his shoulder.

" I said, save them," returned the latter. "Is
there any difference ? "'



42



THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.




CHAPTER X.

SMOOTHING THE WW.

• T has been often enough remarked
that women have a curious power
of divining the characters of men
which would seem to be innate and
instinctive ; seeing that it is arrived
at through no patient process of
reasoning, that it can give no satisfac-
tory or sufficient account of itself, and
that it pronounces in the most confident manner
even against accumulated observation on the
part of the other sex. But it has not been
quite so often remarked that this power (fal-
lible, like every other human attribute), is, for
the most part, absolutely incapable of self-
revision ; and that when it has delivered an
adverse opinion which by all human lights is
subsequently proved to have failed, it is undis-
tinguishable from prejudice, in respect of its
determination not to be corrected. Nay, the
very possibility of contradiction or disproof,
however remote, communicates to this feminine
judgment from the first, in nine cases out of
ten, the weakness attendant on the testimony
of an interested witness ; so personally and
strongly does the fair diviner connect herself
with her divination.

" Now, don't you think, ma dear," said the
Minor Canon to his mother one day as she sat
at her knitting in his little book-room, " that
you are rather hard on Mr. Neville ? "

" No, I do not, Sept," returned the old lady.

" Let us discuss it, ma."

" I have no objection to discuss it, Sept. I
trust, my dear, I am always open to discussion."
There was a vibration in the old lady's cap, as
though she internally added : " And I should
like to see the discussion that would change
my mind ! " '

" Very good, ma," said her conciliatory son.
" There is nothing like being open to discus-
sion."

" I hope not, my dear," returned the old lady,
evidently shut to it.

" Well ! ]\Ir. Neville, on that unfortunate
occasion, commits himself under provocation."

" And under mulled wine," added the old
lady.

" I must admit the wine. Though I believe
the two young men were much alike in that
regard."

" I don't," said the old lady.

'' Why not, ma ? "



" Because I don't" said the old lady. " Still,
I am quite open to discussion.

" But, my dear ma, I cannot see how we are
to discuss, if you take that line."

" Blame Mr. Neville for it. Sept, and not me,"
said the old lady with stately severity.

" My dear ma ! why Mr. Neville?"

" Because," said Mrs. Crisparkle, retiring on
first principles, " he came home intoxicated, and
did great discredit to this house, and showed
great disrespect to this family."

" That is not to be denied, ma. He was
then, and he is now, very sorry for it."

" But for Mr. Jasper's well-bred consideration
in coming up to me next day, after service,
in the Nave itself, with his gown still on,
and expressing his hope that I had not been
greatly alarmed or had my rest violently broken,
I believe I might never have heard of that dis-
graceful transaction," said the old lady.

" To be candid, ma, I think I should have
kept it from you if I could : though I had not
decidedly made up my mind. I was following
Jasper out, to confer with him on the subject,
and to consider the expediency of his and my
jointly hushing the thing up on all accounts,
when I found him speaking to you. Then it
was too late."

" Too late, indeed, Sept. He was still as
pale as gentlemanly ashes at what had taken
place in his rooms overnight."

" If I had kept it from you, ma, you may be
sure it would have been for your peace and
quiet, and for the good of the young men, and
in my best discharge of my duty according to
my lights."

The old lady immediately walked across the
room and kissed him : saying, " Of course, my
dear Sept, I am sure of that."

" However, it became the town talk," said
Mr. Crisparkle, rubbing his ear, as his mother
resumed her seat and her knitting, " and passed
out of my power."

"And I said then. Sept," returned the old
lady, " that I thought ill of Mr. Neville. And
I say now, that I think ill of Mr. Neville. And
I said then, and I say now, that I hope Mr.
Neville may come to good, but I don't believe
he will." Here the cap vibrated again con-
siderably.

" I am sorry to hear you say so, ma "

" I am sorry to say so, my dear," interposed
the old lady, knitting on firmly, "but I can't
help it."

" — For," pursued the Minor Canon, " it is
undeniable that Mr. Neville is exceedingly in-
dustrious and attentive, and that he improves



A WONDERFUL CLOSET.



43



apace, and that he has — I hope I may say — an

attachment to ine."

" There is no merit in the last article, my
dear," said the old lady quickly : " and if he
says there is, I think the worse of him for the
boast."

" But, my dear ma, he never said there was."

" Perhaps not," returned the old lady : " still,
i don't see that it greatly signifies."

There was no impatience in the pleasant look
with which Mr. Crisparkle contemplated the
pretty old piece of china as it knitted ; but
there was, certainly, a humorous sense of its
not being a piece of china to argue with very
closely.

" Besides, Sept, ask yourself what he would
be without his sister. You know what an influ-
ence she has over him ; you know what a
capacity she has ; you know that, whatever he
reads with you, he reads with her. Give her
her fair share of your praise, and how much do
you leave for him ?"

At these words Mr. Crisparkle fell into a little
reverie, in which he thought of several things.
He thought of the times he had seen the brother
and sister together in deep converse over one
of his own old college books ; now, in the rimy
mornings, when he made those sharpening pil-
grimages to Cloisterham Weir ; now, in the
sombre evenings, when he faced the wind at
sunset, having climbed his favourite outlook, a
beetling fragment of monastery ruin ; and the
two studious tigures passed below him along the
margin of the river, in which the town fires and
lights already shone, making the landscape
bleaker. He thought how the consciousness
had stolen upon him that, in teaching one, he
was teaching two ; and how he had almost
insensibly adapted his explanations to both
minds — that with which his own was daily in
contact, and that which he only approached
through it. He thought of the gossip that had
reached him from the Nuns' House, to the effect
that Helena, whom he had mistrusted as so
proud and fierce, submitted herself to the fairy-
bride (as he called her), and learnt from her
what she knew. He thought of the picturesque
alliance between those two, externally so very
different. He thought — perhaps most of all —
could it be that these things were yet but so
many weeks old, and had become an integral
part of his life ?

As, whenever the Reverend Septimus fell a
musing, his good mother took it to be an in-
fallible sign that he "wanted support," the
blooming old lady made all haste to the dining-
room closet, to produce from it the support



embodied in a glass of constantia and a home-
made biscuit. It was a most wonderful closet,
worthy of Cloisterham and of Minor Canon
Corner. Above it, a jwrlrait of Handel in a
flowing wig beamed down at the spectator, with



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 8 of 103)