Charles Dickens.

The works of Charles Dickens : with illustrations (Volume 8) online

. (page 1 of 73)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens : with illustrations (Volume 8) → online text (page 1 of 73)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook











'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' was first published as a

volume in i8jo^ having previously been issued in six

monthly shilling parts from April to September

of that year. The present EditioJi contains

the fragment^ 'How Mr. Sapsea ceased

to be a member of the Eight Club^

discovered by Forster amongst

the papers of Dickens after

his death.



The Mystery of Edwin Drood


I. The Dawn 1

11. A Dean, and a Chapter also 4

III. The Nuns' House 14

IV. Mr. Sapsea 25

V. Mr. Durdles and Friend 34

VI. Philanthropy in Minor Canon Corner . . 41

VII. More Confidences than one . . , . . 50

VIII. Daggers drawn 59

IX. Birds in the Bush 67

X. Smoothing the Way 81

XI. A Picture and a Ring 95

XII. A Night with Durdles 108

XIII. Both at their best 121

XIV. When shall these three meet again? . . 131
XV. Impeached 143

XVI. Devoted 151

XVII. Philanthropy, Professional and Unprofes-
sional 161

XVIII. A Settler in Cloisterham 175

XIX. Shadow on the Sun-dial 183

XX. A Flight 190

XXI. A Recognition 200

XXII. A GRITTY State of Things comes on . . . 205

XXIII. The Dawn again 222


How Mr. Sapsea ceased to be a Member of the

Eight Club. Told by Himself 238



The Mystery of Edwin Drood

UNDER THE TREES Fvontispiece

DuRDLES CAUTIONS MR. SAPSEA .... Facing Pao-e 110

UP THE RIVER " ** 216



1 Jae iViysfery oi



AN ancient English Cathedral Tower? How can the ancient
English Cathedral tower be here ! The well-known massive
gray square tower of its old Cathedral? How can that be
here! There is no spike of rusty iron in the air, between the eye
and it, from any point of the real prospect. What is the spike
that intervenes, and who has set it up? Maybe it is set up by the
Sultan's orders for the impaling of a horde of Turkish robbers,
one by one. It is so, for cymbals clash, and the Sultan goes by to
his palace in long procession. Ten thousand scimitars flash in the
sunlight, and thrice ten thousand dancing-girls strew flowers.
Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous
colours, and infinite in number and attendants. Still the Cathedral
Tower rises in the background, where it cannot be, and still no
writhing figure is on the grim spike. Stay! Is the spike so low
a thing as the rusty spike on the top of a post of an old bedstead
that has tumbled all awry? Some vague period of drowsy laughter
must be devoted to the consideration of this possibility.

Shaking from head to foot, the man whose scattered conscious-
ness has thus fantastically pieced itself together, at length rise?^
supports his trembling frame upon his arms, and looks around. He
is in the meanest and closest of small rooms. Through the ragged
window-curtain, the light of early days steals in from a miserable



court. He Bes, dressed, across a large unseemly bed, upon 2l
bedstead that has indeed given way under the ne^t upon it.
Lying, also dressed and also across the bed, not loi^;wise, are a
Qiinainan, a Lascar, and a haggard woman. The two first are in
a sie^ or stiqxNr; the last is blowing at a kind of piptj to kindle
it. ArA as die U<iws, and shadii^ it with her lean hand, concen-
tri es ::5 '^ ^Kirk of lig^t, it serves in the dim mcNming as a lamp
to ^^^vT - ^at he sees of her.

'Anotl t: sivs this woman, in a querulous^ rattling whisper.
'Hiave a:

He looks a . i. i : : - r 7 1 :

'Y'e 'ye smokectas z.2: 35 e since yc cor r .: :/

the woman goes on, as sIt rfim plaJTis ^P

me, my head is so bad. Them n after ye. Aji :e,

the buaness is slac^ is dack! Iz r 1 I ^^,

and fewer Lascars, and no ships c ^ in, these sayl Ht r 's
anothfT reaify for yc, deary. Ye ".'. 7 7 ber like a 1 5 ul,
woo'tye, that the market pr'r '5 rr ustnow? 1\I t r "

three shillings and sixpence : .- . And ye *!"

ber that nobo^ but me ( ir -2- * -':h^

court: but he can^t do it 3: r Ude se: e: oi

mixing it? YeHp^upac : . '/^^'

She blows at tdie p^ as 5 t 5 ti 5 1 _ .._^^- bubbling
at it, inhales much of its cyr-r/h

*0 me, O me, uxy htnii 1 / ::s :5 bad! It ^s nearly

reaify fcMr yc, deary. Ah : t 7 ; 5? 1 !:es

like to drop off ! I see yi ^- 1.1 Z iri ; i .:

"ITl have annfjipr ready : rim, and hell bear ne

market price of opium, and pi 1 zording.'^ O my ~ r.ead! I
makes my fipes of rfd penny i: . : 75. ye see, deiry — ris is one
— and I fits-in a mouthpiece. : : I i:t5 :ut

<if this thimble with this If v't :r _poon; aiMi 5: I r i i:y.
Ah, my poor nerves! I go: Hti : s-r i:d drunk ::: ir

afcxe I toc^ to this: but thii ir h : r. not t>: 5:ti i. .^d
it takes away the bur zt^ - t ts i^i^J

She hands him thi ri v - ;^ Li^ipe, ar _ sir^ back, turning
over on her face.

He rises unsteadily frcHn r^ t: lays ti-t i:: -^ the hearth-

stone, draws back the ragge i : 1 r ir : repugnance

at his three con^ianions. Ht : i rt " ::Tian has opium-
hecsdf intoastraniT ' r r i an. His fonu


of cheek, eye, and temple, and his colour, are repeated in her.
Said Chinaman convulsively wrestles with one of his many Gods
or Devils, perhaps, and snarls horribly. The Lascar laughs and
dribbles at the mouth. The hostess is still.

^What visions can she have?' the waking man muses, as he
turns her face towards him, and stands looking down at it. ^Visions
of many butchers' shops, and public-houses, and much credit? Of
an increase of hideous customers, and this horrible bedstead set
upright again, and this horrible court swept clean? What can she
rise to, under any quantity of opium, higher than that! — Eh?'

He bends down his ear, to listen to her mutterings.


As he watches the spasmodic shoots and darts that break out
of her face and limbs, like fitful lightning out of a dark sky, some
contagion in them seizes upon him: insomuch that he has to with-
draw himself to a lean arm-chair by the hearth — placed there,
perhaps, for such emergencies — and to sit in it, holding tight,
until he has got the better of this unclean spirit of imitation.

Then he comes back, pounces on the Chinaman, and seizing
him with both hands by the throat, turns him violently on the
bed. The Chinaman clutches the aggressive hands, resists, gasps,
and protests.

What do you say?'

A watchful pause.


Slowly loosening his grasp as he listens to the incoherent jargon
with an attentive frown, he turns to the Lascar and fairly drags
him forth upon the floor. As he falls, the Lascar starts into a
half-risen attitude, glares with his eyes, lashes about him fiercely
with his arms, and draws a phantom knife. It then becomes ap-
parent that the woman has taken possession of this knife, for
safety sake; for, she too starting up, and restraining and expos-
tulating with him, the knife is visible in her dress, not in his, when
they drowsily drop back, side by side.

There has been chattering and clattering enough between them,
but to no purpose. When any distinct word has been flung into
the air, it has had no sense or sequence. WTierefore ^unintelligible! '
is again the comment of the watcher, made with some reassured
nodding of his head, and a gloomy smile. He then lays certain
silver money on the table, finds his hat, gropes his way down the
broken stairs, gives a good morning to some rat-ridden door-


keeper, in bed in a black hutch beneath the stairs, and passes out.
That same afternoon, the massive gray square tower of an old
Cathedral rises before the sight of a jaded traveller. The bells are
going for daily vesper service, and he must needs attend it, one
would say, from his haste to reach the open Cathedral door. The
choir are getting on their sullied white robes, in a hurry, w^hen he
arrives among them, gets on his own robe, and falls into the
procession filing in to service. Then, the Sacristan locks the iron-
barred gates that divide the sanctuary from the chancel, and all
of the procession having scuttled into their places, hide their faces;
and then the intoned words, 'When the Wicked Man — ' rise
among groins of arches and beams of roof, awakening muttered



Whosoever has observed that sedate and clerical bird, the rook,
may perhaps have noticed that when he wings his way homeward
towards nightfall, in a sedate and clerical company, two rooks will
suddenly detach themselves from the rest, will retrace their flight
for some distance, and will there poise and linger; conveying to
mere men the fancy that it is of some occult importance to the
body politic, that this artful couple should pretend to have re-
nounced connection with it.

Similarly, service being over in the old Cathedral with the
square tower, and the choir scuffling out again, and divers vener-
able persons of rook-like aspect dispersing, two of these latter
retrace their steps, and walk togethei in the echoing Close.

Not only is the day waning, but the year. The low sun is fiery
and yet cold behind the monastery ruin, and the Virginia creeper
on the Cathedral wall has showered half its deep-red leaves down
on the pavement. There has been rain this afternoon, and a wintry
shudder goes among the little pools on the cracked, uneven flag-
stones, and through the giant elm-trees as they shed a gust of tears.
Their fallen leaves lie strewn thickly about. Some of these leaves,
in a timid rush, seek sanctuary within the low arched Cathedra]
door; but two men coming out resist them and cast them forth
again with their feet; this done, one of the two locks the dool


with a goodly key, and the other flits away with a folio music-book.

*Mr. Jasper was that, Tope?'

'Yes, Mr. Dean.'

'He has stayed late.'

'Yes, Mr. Dean. I have stayed for him, your Reverence. He
has been took a little poorly.'

'Say "taken," Tope — to the Dean,' the younger rook interposes
in a low tone with this touch of correction, as who should say:
'You may offer bad grammar to the laity, or the humbler clergy,
not to the Dean.'

Mr. Tope, Chief Verger and Showman, and accustomed to be
high with excursion parties, declines w^ith a silent loftiness to per-
ceive that any suggestion has been tendered to him.

'And when and how has Mr. Jasper been taken — for, as Mr,
Crisparkle has remarked, it is better to say taken — taken — ' re'
peats the Dean; 'when and how has Mr. Jasper been Taken — '

'Taken, sir,' Tope deferentially murmurs.

' — Poorly, Tope?'

'Why, sir, Mr. Jasper was that breathed — '

'I wouldn't say "That breathed," Tope,' Mr. Crisparkle inter-
poses with the same touch as before. 'Not English — to the Dean.'

'Breathed to that extent,' the Dean (not unflattered by this
indirect homage) condescendingly remarks, 'would be preferable.'

'Mr. Jasper's breathing was so remarkably short — ' thus dis-
creetly does Mr. Tope work his way round the sunken rock —
'when he came in, that it distressed him mightily to get his notes
out: which was perhaps the cause of his having a kind of fit on
him after a little. His memory grew Dazed.' Mr. Tope, with his
eyes on the Reverend Mr. Crisparkle, shoots this word out, as
defying him to improve upon it: 'and a dimness and giddiness
crept over him as strange as ever I saw: though he didn't seem to
mind it particularly, himself. However, a little time and a little
water brought him out of his Daze.' Mr. Tope repeats the word
and its emphasis, with the air of saying: 'As I have made a success,
I '11 make it again.'

'And Mr. Jasper has gone home quite himself has he?' asked
the Dean.

'Your Reverence, he has gone home quite himself. And I 'm
glad to see he 's having his fire kindled up, for it 's chilly after the
wet, and the Cathedral had both a damp feel and a damp touch
this afternoon, and he was very shivery.'


They all three look towards an old stone gate-house crossing the
Close, with an arched thoroughfare passing beneath it. Through
its latticed window, a fire shines out upon the fast-darkening scene,
involving in shadow the pendent masses of ivy and creeper cover-
ing the building's front. As the deep Cathedral-bell strikes the
hour, a ripple of wind goes through these at their distance, like a
ripple of the solemn sound that hums through tomb and tower,
broken niche and defaced statue, in the pile close at hand.

^Is Mr. Jasper's nephew with him?' the Dean asks.

^No, sir,' replied the Verger, ^but expected. There 's his own
solitary shadow betwixt his two windows — the one looking this
way, and the one looking down into the High Street — drawing his
own curtains now.'

^Well, well,' says the Dean, with a sprightly air of breaking up
the little conference, ^I hope Mr. Jasper's heart may not be too
much set upon his nephew. Our affections, however laudable, in
this transitory world, should never master us; we should guide
them, guide them. I find I am not disagreeably reminded of my
dinner, by hearing my dinner-bell. Perhaps, Mr. Crisparkle, you
will, before going home, look in on Jasper?'

^Certainly, Mr. Dean. And tell him that you had the kindness
to desire to know how he was?'

^Ay; do so, do so. Certainly. Wished to know how he was. By
all means. Wished to knovr how he was.'

With a pleasant air of patronage, the Dean as nearly cocks his
quaint hat as a Dean in good spirits may, and directs his comely
gaiters towards the ruddy dining-room of the snug old red-brick
house where he is at present, 'in residence' with Mrs. Dean and
Miss Dean.

Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon, fair and rosy, and perpetually
pitching himself head-foremost into all the deep running water in
the surrounding country; Mr. Crisparkle, Minor Canon, early
riser, musical, classical, cheerful, kind, good-natured, social, con-
tented, and boy-like; ]\Ir. Crisparkle, ]\Iinor Canon and good man,
lately 'Coach' upon the chief Pagan high roads, but since promoted
by a patron (grateful for a well-taught son) to his present Christ-
tian beat; betakes himself to the gatehouse, on his way home to his
early tea.

'Sorry to hear from Tope that you have not been well, Jasper/

^O, it was nothing, nothing!'

^You look a little worn.'


'Do I? O, I don't think so. What is better, I don't feel so.
Tope has made too much of it, I suspect. It 's his trade to make
the most of everything appertaining to the Cathedral, you know.'

'I may tell the Dean — I call expressly from the Dean — that you
are all right again?'

The reply, with a slight smile, is: 'Certainly; with my respects
and thanks to the Dean.'

'I 'm glad to hear that you expect young Drood.'

'I expect the dear fellow every moment.'

'Ah! He will do you more good than a doctor, Jasper.'

'More good than a dozen doctors. For I love him dearly, and I
don't love doctors, or doctors' stuff.'

Mr. Jasper is a dark man of some six-and-twenty, with thick,
lustrous, well-arranged black hair and whiskers. He looks older
than he is, as dark men often do. His voice is deep and good, his
face and figure are good, his manner is a little sombre. His room
is a little sombre, and may have had its influence in forming his
manner. It is mostly in shadow. Even when the sun shines bril-
liantly, it seldom touches the grand piano in the recess, or the folio
music-books on the stand, or the book-shelves on the wall, or the
unfinished picture of a blooming school-girl hanging over the
chimney-piece; her flowing brown hair tied with a blue riband,
and her beauty remarkable for a quite childish, almost babyish,
touch of saucy discontent, comically conscious of itself. (There is
not the least artistic merit in this picture, which is a mere daub;
but it is clear that the painter has made it humorously — one
might almost say, revengefully — like the original.)

'We shall miss you, Jasper, at the "Alternate Musical Wednes-
days" to-night; but no doubt you are best at home. Good-night,
God bless you! "Tell me, shepherds, te-e-ell me; tell me-e-e, have
you seen (have you seen, have you seen, have you seen) my-y-y
Flo-o-ora-a pass this way!" ' Melodiously good Minor Canon the
Reverend Septimus Crisparkle thus delivers himself, in musical
rhythm, as he withdraws his amiable face from the doorway and
conveys it downstairs.

Sounds of recognition and greeting pass between the Reverend
Septimus and somebody else, at the stair-foot. Mr. Jasper listens^
starts from his chair, and catches a young fellow in his arms,
exclaiming :

'My dear Edwin!'

'My dear Jack! So glad to see you!'


^Get off your greatcoat, bright boy, and sit down here in your
own corner. Your feet are not wet? Pull your boots off. Do pull
your boots off.'

^My dear Jack, I am as dry as a bone. Don't moddley-coddley,
there 's a good fellow. I like anything better than being moddley-

With the check upon him of being unsympathetically restrained
in a genial outburst of enthusiasm, Mr. Jasper stands still, and
looks on intently at the young fellow, divesting himself of his
outward coat, h^ gloves, and so forth. Once for all, a look of
intentness, and intensity — a look of hungry, exacting, watchful,
and yet devoted affection— is always, now and ever afterwards,
on the Jasper face whenever the Jasper face is addressed in this
direction. And whenever it is so addressed, it is never, on this
occasion or on any other, dividedly addressed; it is always con-

^Now I am right, and now I '11 take my corner, Jack. Any
dinner. Jack?'

Mr. Jasper opens a door at the upper end of the room, and
discloses a small inner room pleasantly lighted and prepared,
wherein a comely dame is in the act of setting dishes on table.

^What a jolly old Jack it is! ' cries the young fellow, with a clap
of his hands. 'Look here. Jack; tell me; whose birthday is it?'

'Not yours, I know,' Mr. Jasper answers, pausing to consider.

'Not mine, you knov;? No; not mine, / know! Pussy's!'

Fixed as the look the young fellow meets, is, there is yet in it
some strange power of suddenly including the sketch over the

'Pussy's, Jack! We must drink Many happy returns to her.
Come, uncle; take your dutiful and sharp-set nephew in to dinner.'

As the boy (for he is little more) lays a hand on Jasper's
shoulder, Jasper cordially and gaily lays a hand on his shoulder,
and so Marseillaise-wise they go in to dinner.

'And, Lord! here's Mrs. Tope!' cries the boy. 'Lovelier than
ever ! '

'Never you mind. Master Edwin,' retorts the Verger's wife;
'I can take care of myself.'

'You can't. You 're much too handsome. Give me a kiss because
it 's Pussy's birthday.'

'I 'd Pussy you, young man, if I was Pussy, as you call her,'
Mrs. Tope blushingly retorts, after being saluted. 'Your uncle 's


too much wrapt up in you, that 's where it is. He makes so much
of you, that it 's my opinion you think you've only to call your
Pussys by the dozen, to make 'em come.'

^You forget, Mrs. Tope,' ]\Ir. Jasper interposes, taking his place
at the table with a genial smile, 'and so do you, Ned, that Uncle
and Nephew are words prohibited here by common consent and
express agreement. For what we are going to receive His holy
name be praised!'

'Done like the Dean! Witness, Edwin Drood! Please to carve.
Jack, for I can't.'

This sally ushers in the dinner. Little to the present purpose,
or to any purpose, is said, while it is in course of being disposed
of. At length the cloth is drawn, and a dish of walnuts and a
decanter of rich-coloured sherry are placed upon the table.

'I say! Tell me. Jack,' the young fellow then flows on: 'do you
really and truly feel as if the mention of our relationship divided
us at all? / don't.'

'Uncles as a rule, Ned, are so much older than their nephews/ is
the reply, 'that I have that feeling instinctively.'

'As a rule! Ah, may-be! But what is a difference in age of half
a dozen years or so? And some uncles, in large families, are even
younger than their nephews. By George, I wish it was the case
with us!'


'Because if it was, I 'd take the lead with you. Jack, and be a.«
wise as Begone, dull Care! that turned a young man gray, and
Begone, dull Care that turned an old man to clay. — Halloa, Jack!
Don't drink.'

'Why not?'

'Asks why not, on Pussy's birthday, and no Happy returns
proposed! Pussy, Jack, and many of 'em! Happy returns, I

Laying an affectionate and laughing touch on the boy's extended
hand, as if it were at once his giddy head and his light heart, Mr.
Jasper drinks the toast in silence.

'Hip, hip, hip, and nine times nine, and one to finish with, and
all that, understood. Hooray, hooray, hooray! — And now, Jack,
let 's have a little talk about Pussy. Two pairs of nut-crackers?
Pass me one, and take the other.' Crack. 'How 's Pussy getting
on, Jack?'

'With her music? Fairly.'


^What a dreadfully conscientious fellow you are, Jack! But /
know, Lord bless you! Inattentive, isn't she?'

^She can learn anything, if she will.'

7/ she will! Egad, that 's it. But if she won't?'

Crack! — on Mr. Jasper's part.

^How 's she looking, Jack?'

Mr. Jasper's concentrated face again includes the portrait as
he returns: ^Very like your sketch indeed.'

^I am a little proud of it,' says the young fellow, glancing up at
the sketch with complacency, and then shutting one eye, and tak-
ing a corrected prospect of it over a level bridge of nut-crackers
in the air: ^Not badly hit off from memory. But I ought to have
caught that expression pretty well, for I have seen it often enough.'

Crack! — on Edwin Drood's part.

Crack! — on Mr. Jasper's part.

^In point of fact,' the former resumes, after some silent dipping
among his fragments of walnut with an air of pique, 'I see it when-
ever I go to see Pussy. If I don't find it on her face, I leave it
there. — You know I do. Miss Scornful Pert. Booh!' With a twirl
of the nut-crackers at the portrait.

Crack! crack! crack. Slowly, on Mr. Jasper's part.

Crack. Sharply on the part of Edwin Drood.

Silence on both sides.

^Have you lost your tongue, Jack?'

*Have you found yours, Ned?'

^No, but really; — isn't it, you know, after all — '

Mr. Jasper lifts his dark eyebrows inquiringly.

^Isn't it unsatisfactory to be cut off from choice in such a
matter? There, Jack! I tell you! if I could choose, I would choose
Pussy from all the pretty girls in the world.'

^But you have not got to choose.'

^That 's what I complain of. My dead and gone father and
Pussy's dead and gone father must needs marry us together by
anticipation. Why the — Devil, I was going to say, if it had been
respectful to their memory — couldn't they leave us alone?'

^Tut, tut, dear boy,' Mr. Jasper remonstrates, in a tone of gentle

^Tut, tut? Yes, Jack, it 's all very well for you. You can take it
easily. Your life is not laid down to scale, and lined and dotted out
for you, like a surveyor's plan. You have no uncomfortable sus-
picion that you are forced upon anybody, nor has anybody an un-


comfortable suspicion that she is forced upon you, or that you
are forced upon her. Yoti can choose for yourself. Life, for you,
is a plum with the natural bloom on; it hasn't been over-carefully
wiped off for you — '

^Don't stop, dear fellow. Go on.'

^Can I anyhow have hurt your feelings, Jack?'

^How can you have hurt my feelings?'

'Good Heaven, Jack, you look frightfully ill! There 's a strange
film come over your eyes.'

Mr. Jasper, with a forced smile, stretches out his right hand,
as if at once to disarm apprehension and gain time to get better.
After a while he says faintly:

'I have been taking opium for a pain — an agony — that some-
times overcomes me. The effects of the medicine steal over me like
a blight or a cloud, and pass. You see them in the act of passing;
they will be gone directly. Look away from me. They will go all
the sooner.'

With a scared face the younger man complies by casting his
eyes downward at the ashes on the hearth. Not relaxing his own
gaze on the fire, but rather strengthening it with a fierce, firm grip

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens : with illustrations (Volume 8) → online text (page 1 of 73)