Part 2 out of 6
bound to the premises by a tender sentiment (or so fond of having a
fire by the roadside in the course of the day), that they can never
be persuaded or threatened into departure, without violently
possessing themselves of some wooden forget-me-not, and bearing it
The semblance of an inn is attempted to be given to this wretched
place by fragments of conventional red curtaining in the windows,
which rags are made muddily transparent in the night-season by
feeble lights of rush or cotton dip burning dully in the close air
of the inside. As Durdles and Jasper come near, they are addressed
by an inscribed paper lantern over the door, setting forth the
purport of the house. They are also addressed by some half-dozen
other hideous small boys--whether twopenny lodgers or followers or
hangers-on of such, who knows!--who, as if attracted by some
carrion-scent of Deputy in the air, start into the moonlight, as
vultures might gather in the desert, and instantly fall to stoning
him and one another.
'Stop, you young brutes,' cries Jasper angrily, 'and let us go by!'
This remonstrance being received with yells and flying stones,
according to a custom of late years comfortably established among
the police regulations of our English communities, where Christians
are stoned on all sides, as if the days of Saint Stephen were
revived, Durdles remarks of the young savages, with some point,
that 'they haven't got an object,' and leads the way down the lane.
At the corner of the lane, Jasper, hotly enraged, checks his
companion and looks back. All is silent. Next moment, a stone
coming rattling at his hat, and a distant yell of 'Wake-Cock!
Warning!' followed by a crow, as from some infernally-hatched
Chanticleer, apprising him under whose victorious fire he stands,
he turns the corner into safety, and takes Durdles home: Durdles
stumbling among the litter of his stony yard as if he were going to
turn head foremost into one of the unfinished tombs.
John Jasper returns by another way to his gatehouse, and entering
softly with his key, finds his fire still burning. He takes from a
locked press a peculiar-looking pipe, which he fills--but not with
tobacco--and, having adjusted the contents of the bowl, very
carefully, with a little instrument, ascends an inner staircase of
only a few steps, leading to two rooms. One of these is his own
sleeping chamber: the other is his nephew's. There is a light in
His nephew lies asleep, calm and untroubled. John Jasper stands
looking down upon him, his unlighted pipe in his hand, for some
time, with a fixed and deep attention. Then, hushing his
footsteps, he passes to his own room, lights his pipe, and delivers
himself to the Spectres it invokes at midnight.
CHAPTER VI--PHILANTHROPY IN MINOR CANON CORNER
The Reverend Septimus Crisparkle (Septimus, because six little
brother Crisparkles before him went out, one by one, as they were
born, like six weak little rushlights, as they were lighted),
having broken the thin morning ice near Cloisterham Weir with his
amiable head, much to the invigoration of his frame, was now
assisting his circulation by boxing at a looking-glass with great
science and prowess. A fresh and healthy portrait the looking-
glass presented of the Reverend Septimus, feinting and dodging with
the utmost artfulness, and hitting out from the shoulder with the
utmost straightness, while his radiant features teemed with
innocence, and soft-hearted benevolence beamed from his boxing-
It was scarcely breakfast-time yet, for Mrs. Crisparkle--mother,
not wife of the Reverend Septimus--was only just down, and waiting
for the urn. Indeed, the Reverend Septimus left off at this very
moment to take the pretty old lady's entering face between his
boxing-gloves and kiss it. Having done so with tenderness, the
Reverend Septimus turned to again, countering with his left, and
putting in his right, in a tremendous manner.
'I say, every morning of my life, that you'll do it at last, Sept,'
remarked the old lady, looking on; 'and so you will.'
'Do what, Ma dear?'
'Break the pier-glass, or burst a blood-vessel.'
'Neither, please God, Ma dear. Here's wind, Ma. Look at this!'
In a concluding round of great severity, the Reverend Septimus
administered and escaped all sorts of punishment, and wound up by
getting the old lady's cap into Chancery--such is the technical
term used in scientific circles by the learned in the Noble Art--
with a lightness of touch that hardly stirred the lightest lavender
or cherry riband on it. Magnanimously releasing the defeated, just
in time to get his gloves into a drawer and feign to be looking out
of window in a contemplative state of mind when a servant entered,
the Reverend Septimus then gave place to the urn and other
preparations for breakfast. These completed, and the two alone
again, it was pleasant to see (or would have been, if there had
been any one to see it, which there never was), the old lady
standing to say the Lord's Prayer aloud, and her son, Minor Canon
nevertheless, standing with bent head to hear it, he being within
five years of forty: much as he had stood to hear the same words
from the same lips when he was within five months of four.
What is prettier than an old lady--except a young lady--when her
eyes are bright, when her figure is trim and compact, when her face
is cheerful and calm, when her dress is as the dress of a china
shepherdess: so dainty in its colours, so individually assorted to
herself, so neatly moulded on her? Nothing is prettier, thought
the good Minor Canon frequently, when taking his seat at table
opposite his long-widowed mother. Her thought at such times may be
condensed into the two words that oftenest did duty together in all
her conversations: 'My Sept!'
They were a good pair to sit breakfasting together in Minor Canon
Corner, Cloisterham. For Minor Canon Corner was a quiet place in
the shadow of the Cathedral, which the cawing of the rooks, the
echoing footsteps of rare passers, the sound of the Cathedral bell,
or the roll of the Cathedral organ, seemed to render more quiet
than absolute silence. Swaggering fighting men had had their
centuries of ramping and raving about Minor Canon Corner, and
beaten serfs had had their centuries of drudging and dying there,
and powerful monks had had their centuries of being sometimes
useful and sometimes harmful there, and behold they were all gone
out of Minor Canon Corner, and so much the better. Perhaps one of
the highest uses of their ever having been there, was, that there
might be left behind, that blessed air of tranquillity which
pervaded Minor Canon Corner, and that serenely romantic state of
the mind--productive for the most part of pity and forbearance--
which is engendered by a sorrowful story that is all told, or a
pathetic play that is played out.
Red-brick walls harmoniously toned down in colour by time, strong-
rooted ivy, latticed windows, panelled rooms, big oaken beams in
little places, and stone-walled gardens where annual fruit yet
ripened upon monkish trees, were the principal surroundings of
pretty old Mrs. Crisparkle and the Reverend Septimus as they sat at
'And what, Ma dear,' inquired the Minor Canon, giving proof of a
wholesome and vigorous appetite, 'does the letter say?'
The pretty old lady, after reading it, had just laid it down upon
the breakfast-cloth. She handed it over to her son.
Now, the old lady was exceedingly proud of her bright eyes being so
clear that she could read writing without spectacles. Her son was
also so proud of the circumstance, and so dutifully bent on her
deriving the utmost possible gratification from it, that he had
invented the pretence that he himself could NOT read writing
without spectacles. Therefore he now assumed a pair, of grave and
prodigious proportions, which not only seriously inconvenienced his
nose and his breakfast, but seriously impeded his perusal of the
letter. For, he had the eyes of a microscope and a telescope
combined, when they were unassisted.
'It's from Mr. Honeythunder, of course,' said the old lady, folding
'Of course,' assented her son. He then lamely read on:
'"Haven of Philanthropy,
Chief Offices, London, Wednesday.
'"I write in the--;" In the what's this? What does he write in?'
'In the chair,' said the old lady.
The Reverend Septimus took off his spectacles, that he might see
her face, as he exclaimed:
'Why, what should he write in?'
'Bless me, bless me, Sept,' returned the old lady, 'you don't see
the context! Give it back to me, my dear.'
Glad to get his spectacles off (for they always made his eyes
water), her son obeyed: murmuring that his sight for reading
manuscript got worse and worse daily.
'"I write,"' his mother went on, reading very perspicuously and
precisely, '"from the chair, to which I shall probably be confined
for some hours."'
Septimus looked at the row of chairs against the wall, with a half-
protesting and half-appealing countenance.
'"We have,"' the old lady read on with a little extra emphasis, '"a
meeting of our Convened Chief Composite Committee of Central and
District Philanthropists, at our Head Haven as above; and it is
their unanimous pleasure that I take the chair."'
Septimus breathed more freely, and muttered: 'O! if he comes to
THAT, let him,'
'"Not to lose a day's post, I take the opportunity of a long report
being read, denouncing a public miscreant--"'
'It is a most extraordinary thing,' interposed the gentle Minor
Canon, laying down his knife and fork to rub his ear in a vexed
manner, 'that these Philanthropists are always denouncing somebody.
And it is another most extraordinary thing that they are always so
violently flush of miscreants!'
'"Denouncing a public miscreant--"'--the old lady resumed, '"to get
our little affair of business off my mind. I have spoken with my
two wards, Neville and Helena Landless, on the subject of their
defective education, and they give in to the plan proposed; as I
should have taken good care they did, whether they liked it or
'And it is another most extraordinary thing,' remarked the Minor
Canon in the same tone as before, 'that these philanthropists are
so given to seizing their fellow-creatures by the scruff of the
neck, and (as one may say) bumping them into the paths of peace.--I
beg your pardon, Ma dear, for interrupting.'
'"Therefore, dear Madam, you will please prepare your son, the Rev.
Mr. Septimus, to expect Neville as an inmate to be read with, on
Monday next. On the same day Helena will accompany him to
Cloisterham, to take up her quarters at the Nuns' House, the
establishment recommended by yourself and son jointly. Please
likewise to prepare for her reception and tuition there. The terms
in both cases are understood to be exactly as stated to me in
writing by yourself, when I opened a correspondence with you on
this subject, after the honour of being introduced to you at your
sister's house in town here. With compliments to the Rev. Mr.
Septimus, I am, Dear Madam, Your affectionate brother (In
Philanthropy), LUKE HONEYTHUNDER."'
'Well, Ma,' said Septimus, after a little more rubbing of his ear,
'we must try it. There can be no doubt that we have room for an
inmate, and that I have time to bestow upon him, and inclination
too. I must confess to feeling rather glad that he is not Mr.
Honeythunder himself. Though that seems wretchedly prejudiced--
does it not?--for I never saw him. Is he a large man, Ma?'
'I should call him a large man, my dear,' the old lady replied
after some hesitation, 'but that his voice is so much larger.'
'Hah!' said Septimus. And finished his breakfast as if the flavour
of the Superior Family Souchong, and also of the ham and toast and
eggs, were a little on the wane.
Mrs. Crisparkle's sister, another piece of Dresden china, and
matching her so neatly that they would have made a delightful pair
of ornaments for the two ends of any capacious old-fashioned
chimneypiece, and by right should never have been seen apart, was
the childless wife of a clergyman holding Corporation preferment in
London City. Mr. Honeythunder in his public character of Professor
of Philanthropy had come to know Mrs. Crisparkle during the last
re-matching of the china ornaments (in other words during her last
annual visit to her sister), after a public occasion of a
philanthropic nature, when certain devoted orphans of tender years
had been glutted with plum buns, and plump bumptiousness. These
were all the antecedents known in Minor Canon Corner of the coming
'I am sure you will agree with me, Ma,' said Mr. Crisparkle, after
thinking the matter over, 'that the first thing to be done, is, to
put these young people as much at their ease as possible. There is
nothing disinterested in the notion, because we cannot be at our
ease with them unless they are at their ease with us. Now,
Jasper's nephew is down here at present; and like takes to like,
and youth takes to youth. He is a cordial young fellow, and we
will have him to meet the brother and sister at dinner. That's
three. We can't think of asking him, without asking Jasper.
That's four. Add Miss Twinkleton and the fairy bride that is to
be, and that's six. Add our two selves, and that's eight. Would
eight at a friendly dinner at all put you out, Ma?'
'Nine would, Sept,' returned the old lady, visibly nervous.
'My dear Ma, I particularise eight.'
'The exact size of the table and the room, my dear.'
So it was settled that way: and when Mr. Crisparkle called with
his mother upon Miss Twinkleton, to arrange for the reception of
Miss Helena Landless at the Nuns' House, the two other invitations
having reference to that establishment were proffered and accepted.
Miss Twinkleton did, indeed, glance at the globes, as regretting
that they were not formed to be taken out into society; but became
reconciled to leaving them behind. Instructions were then
despatched to the Philanthropist for the departure and arrival, in
good time for dinner, of Mr. Neville and Miss Helena; and stock for
soup became fragrant in the air of Minor Canon Corner.
In those days there was no railway to Cloisterham, and Mr. Sapsea
said there never would be. Mr. Sapsea said more; he said there
never should be. And yet, marvellous to consider, it has come to
pass, in these days, that Express Trains don't think Cloisterham
worth stopping at, but yell and whirl through it on their larger
errands, casting the dust off their wheels as a testimony against
its insignificance. Some remote fragment of Main Line to somewhere
else, there was, which was going to ruin the Money Market if it
failed, and Church and State if it succeeded, and (of course), the
Constitution, whether or no; but even that had already so unsettled
Cloisterham traffic, that the traffic, deserting the high road,
came sneaking in from an unprecedented part of the country by a
back stable-way, for many years labelled at the corner: 'Beware of
To this ignominious avenue of approach, Mr. Crisparkle repaired,
awaiting the arrival of a short, squat omnibus, with a
disproportionate heap of luggage on the roof--like a little
Elephant with infinitely too much Castle--which was then the daily
service between Cloisterham and external mankind. As this vehicle
lumbered up, Mr. Crisparkle could hardly see anything else of it
for a large outside passenger seated on the box, with his elbows
squared, and his hands on his knees, compressing the driver into a
most uncomfortably small compass, and glowering about him with a
'Is this Cloisterham?' demanded the passenger, in a tremendous
'It is,' replied the driver, rubbing himself as if he ached, after
throwing the reins to the ostler. 'And I never was so glad to see
'Tell your master to make his box-seat wider, then,' returned the
passenger. 'Your master is morally bound--and ought to be legally,
under ruinous penalties--to provide for the comfort of his fellow-
The driver instituted, with the palms of his hands, a superficial
perquisition into the state of his skeleton; which seemed to make
'Have I sat upon you?' asked the passenger.
'You have,' said the driver, as if he didn't like it at all.
'Take that card, my friend.'
'I think I won't deprive you on it,' returned the driver, casting
his eyes over it with no great favour, without taking it. 'What's
the good of it to me?'
'Be a Member of that Society,' said the passenger.
'What shall I get by it?' asked the driver.
'Brotherhood,' returned the passenger, in a ferocious voice.
'Thankee,' said the driver, very deliberately, as he got down; 'my
mother was contented with myself, and so am I. I don't want no
'But you must have them,' replied the passenger, also descending,
'whether you like it or not. I am your brother.'
' I say!' expostulated the driver, becoming more chafed in temper,
'not too fur! The worm WILL, when--'
But here, Mr. Crisparkle interposed, remonstrating aside, in a
friendly voice: 'Joe, Joe, Joe! don't forget yourself, Joe, my
good fellow!' and then, when Joe peaceably touched his hat,
accosting the passenger with: 'Mr. Honeythunder?'
'That is my name, sir.'
'My name is Crisparkle.'
'Reverend Mr. Septimus? Glad to see you, sir. Neville and Helena
are inside. Having a little succumbed of late, under the pressure
of my public labours, I thought I would take a mouthful of fresh
air, and come down with them, and return at night. So you are the
Reverend Mr. Septimus, are you?' surveying him on the whole with
disappointment, and twisting a double eyeglass by its ribbon, as if
he were roasting it, but not otherwise using it. 'Hah! I expected
to see you older, sir.'
'I hope you will,' was the good-humoured reply.
'Eh?' demanded Mr. Honeythunder.
'Only a poor little joke. Not worth repeating.'
'Joke? Ay; I never see a joke,' Mr. Honeythunder frowningly
retorted. 'A joke is wasted upon me, sir. Where are they? Helena
and Neville, come here! Mr. Crisparkle has come down to meet you.'
An unusually handsome lithe young fellow, and an unusually handsome
lithe girl; much alike; both very dark, and very rich in colour;
she of almost the gipsy type; something untamed about them both; a
certain air upon them of hunter and huntress; yet withal a certain
air of being the objects of the chase, rather than the followers.
Slender, supple, quick of eye and limb; half shy, half defiant;
fierce of look; an indefinable kind of pause coming and going on
their whole expression, both of face and form, which might be
equally likened to the pause before a crouch or a bound. The rough
mental notes made in the first five minutes by Mr. Crisparkle would
have read thus, verbatim.
He invited Mr. Honeythunder to dinner, with a troubled mind (for
the discomfiture of the dear old china shepherdess lay heavy on
it), and gave his arm to Helena Landless. Both she and her
brother, as they walked all together through the ancient streets,
took great delight in what he pointed out of the Cathedral and the
Monastery ruin, and wondered--so his notes ran on--much as if they
were beautiful barbaric captives brought from some wild tropical
dominion. Mr. Honeythunder walked in the middle of the road,
shouldering the natives out of his way, and loudly developing a
scheme he had, for making a raid on all the unemployed persons in
the United Kingdom, laying them every one by the heels in jail, and
forcing them, on pain of prompt extermination, to become
Mrs. Crisparkle had need of her own share of philanthropy when she
beheld this very large and very loud excrescence on the little
party. Always something in the nature of a Boil upon the face of
society, Mr. Honeythunder expanded into an inflammatory Wen in
Minor Canon Corner. Though it was not literally true, as was
facetiously charged against him by public unbelievers, that he
called aloud to his fellow-creatures: 'Curse your souls and
bodies, come here and be blessed!' still his philanthropy was of
that gunpowderous sort that the difference between it and animosity
was hard to determine. You were to abolish military force, but you
were first to bring all commanding officers who had done their
duty, to trial by court-martial for that offence, and shoot them.
You were to abolish war, but were to make converts by making war
upon them, and charging them with loving war as the apple of their
eye. You were to have no capital punishment, but were first to
sweep off the face of the earth all legislators, jurists, and
judges, who were of the contrary opinion. You were to have
universal concord, and were to get it by eliminating all the people
who wouldn't, or conscientiously couldn't, be concordant. You were
to love your brother as yourself, but after an indefinite interval
of maligning him (very much as if you hated him), and calling him
all manner of names. Above all things, you were to do nothing in
private, or on your own account. You were to go to the offices of
the Haven of Philanthropy, and put your name down as a Member and a
Professing Philanthropist. Then, you were to pay up your
subscription, get your card of membership and your riband and
medal, and were evermore to live upon a platform, and evermore to
say what Mr. Honeythunder said, and what the Treasurer said, and
what the sub-Treasurer said, and what the Committee said, and what
the sub-Committee said, and what the Secretary said, and what the
Vice-Secretary said. And this was usually said in the unanimously-
carried resolution under hand and seal, to the effect: 'That this
assembled Body of Professing Philanthropists views, with indignant
scorn and contempt, not unmixed with utter detestation and loathing
abhorrence'--in short, the baseness of all those who do not belong
to it, and pledges itself to make as many obnoxious statements as
possible about them, without being at all particular as to facts.
The dinner was a most doleful breakdown. The philanthropist
deranged the symmetry of the table, sat himself in the way of the
waiting, blocked up the thoroughfare, and drove Mr. Tope (who
assisted the parlour-maid) to the verge of distraction by passing
plates and dishes on, over his own head. Nobody could talk to
anybody, because he held forth to everybody at once, as if the
company had no individual existence, but were a Meeting. He
impounded the Reverend Mr. Septimus, as an official personage to be
addressed, or kind of human peg to hang his oratorical hat on, and
fell into the exasperating habit, common among such orators, of
impersonating him as a wicked and weak opponent. Thus, he would
ask: 'And will you, sir, now stultify yourself by telling me'--and
so forth, when the innocent man had not opened his lips, nor meant
to open them. Or he would say: 'Now see, sir, to what a position
you are reduced. I will leave you no escape. After exhausting all
the resources of fraud and falsehood, during years upon years;
after exhibiting a combination of dastardly meanness with
ensanguined daring, such as the world has not often witnessed; you
have now the hypocrisy to bend the knee before the most degraded of
mankind, and to sue and whine and howl for mercy!' Whereat the
unfortunate Minor Canon would look, in part indignant and in part
perplexed; while his worthy mother sat bridling, with tears in her
eyes, and the remainder of the party lapsed into a sort of
gelatinous state, in which there was no flavour or solidity, and
very little resistance.
But the gush of philanthropy that burst forth when the departure of
Mr. Honeythunder began to impend, must have been highly gratifying
to the feelings of that distinguished man. His coffee was
produced, by the special activity of Mr. Tope, a full hour before
he wanted it. Mr. Crisparkle sat with his watch in his hand for
about the same period, lest he should overstay his time. The four
young people were unanimous in believing that the Cathedral clock
struck three-quarters, when it actually struck but one. Miss
Twinkleton estimated the distance to the omnibus at five-and-twenty
minutes' walk, when it was really five. The affectionate kindness
of the whole circle hustled him into his greatcoat, and shoved him
out into the moonlight, as if he were a fugitive traitor with whom
they sympathised, and a troop of horse were at the back door. Mr.
Crisparkle and his new charge, who took him to the omnibus, were so
fervent in their apprehensions of his catching cold, that they shut
him up in it instantly and left him, with still half-an-hour to
CHAPTER VII--MORE CONFIDENCES THAN ONE
'I know very little of that gentleman, sir,' said Neville to the
Minor Canon as they turned back.
'You know very little of your guardian?' the Minor Canon repeated.
'How came he--'
'To BE my guardian? I'll tell you, sir. I suppose you know that
we come (my sister and I) from Ceylon?'
'I wonder at that. We lived with a stepfather there. Our mother
died there, when we were little children. We have had a wretched
existence. She made him our guardian, and he was a miserly wretch
who grudged us food to eat, and clothes to wear. At his death, he
passed us over to this man; for no better reason that I know of,
than his being a friend or connexion of his, whose name was always
in print and catching his attention.'
'That was lately, I suppose?'
'Quite lately, sir. This stepfather of ours was a cruel brute as
well as a grinding one. It is well he died when he did, or I might
have killed him.'
Mr. Crisparkle stopped short in the moonlight and looked at his
hopeful pupil in consternation.
'I surprise you, sir?' he said, with a quick change to a submissive
'You shock me; unspeakably shock me.'
The pupil hung his head for a little while, as they walked on, and
then said: 'You never saw him beat your sister. I have seen him
beat mine, more than once or twice, and I never forgot it.'
'Nothing,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'not even a beloved and beautiful
sister's tears under dastardly ill-usage;' he became less severe,
in spite of himself, as his indignation rose; 'could justify those
horrible expressions that you used.'
'I am sorry I used them, and especially to you, sir. I beg to
recall them. But permit me to set you right on one point. You
spoke of my sister's tears. My sister would have let him tear her
to pieces, before she would have let him believe that he could make
her shed a tear.'
Mr. Crisparkle reviewed those mental notes of his, and was neither
at all surprised to hear it, nor at all disposed to question it.
'Perhaps you will think it strange, sir,'--this was said in a
hesitating voice--'that I should so soon ask you to allow me to
confide in you, and to have the kindness to hear a word or two from
me in my defence?'
'Defence?' Mr. Crisparkle repeated. 'You are not on your defence,
'I think I am, sir. At least I know I should be, if you were
better acquainted with my character.'
'Well, Mr. Neville,' was the rejoinder. 'What if you leave me to
find it out?'
'Since it is your pleasure, sir,' answered the young man, with a
quick change in his manner to sullen disappointment: 'since it is
your pleasure to check me in my impulse, I must submit.'
There was that in the tone of this short speech which made the
conscientious man to whom it was addressed uneasy. It hinted to
him that he might, without meaning it, turn aside a trustfulness
beneficial to a mis-shapen young mind and perhaps to his own power
of directing and improving it. They were within sight of the
lights in his windows, and he stopped.
'Let us turn back and take a turn or two up and down, Mr. Neville,
or you may not have time to finish what you wish to say to me. You
are hasty in thinking that I mean to check you. Quite the
contrary. I invite your confidence.'
'You have invited it, sir, without knowing it, ever since I came
here. I say "ever since," as if I had been here a week. The truth
is, we came here (my sister and I) to quarrel with you, and affront
you, and break away again.'
'Really?' said Mr. Crisparkle, at a dead loss for anything else to
'You see, we could not know what you were beforehand, sir; could
'Clearly not,' said Mr. Crisparkle.
'And having liked no one else with whom we have ever been brought
into contact, we had made up our minds not to like you.'
'Really?' said Mr. Crisparkle again.
'But we do like you, sir, and we see an unmistakable difference
between your house and your reception of us, and anything else we
have ever known. This--and my happening to be alone with you--and
everything around us seeming so quiet and peaceful after Mr.
Honeythunder's departure--and Cloisterham being so old and grave
and beautiful, with the moon shining on it--these things inclined
me to open my heart.'
'I quite understand, Mr. Neville. And it is salutary to listen to
'In describing my own imperfections, sir, I must ask you not to
suppose that I am describing my sister's. She has come out of the
disadvantages of our miserable life, as much better than I am, as
that Cathedral tower is higher than those chimneys.'
Mr. Crisparkle in his own breast was not so sure of this.
'I have had, sir, from my earliest remembrance, to suppress a
deadly and bitter hatred. This has made me secret and revengeful.
I have been always tyrannically held down by the strong hand. This
has driven me, in my weakness, to the resource of being false and
mean. I have been stinted of education, liberty, money, dress, the
very necessaries of life, the commonest pleasures of childhood, the
commonest possessions of youth. This has caused me to be utterly
wanting in I don't know what emotions, or remembrances, or good
instincts--I have not even a name for the thing, you see!--that you
have had to work upon in other young men to whom you have been
'This is evidently true. But this is not encouraging,' thought Mr.
Crisparkle as they turned again.
'And to finish with, sir: I have been brought up among abject and
servile dependents, of an inferior race, and I may easily have
contracted some affinity with them. Sometimes, I don't know but
that it may be a drop of what is tigerish in their blood.'
'As in the case of that remark just now,' thought Mr. Crisparkle.
'In a last word of reference to my sister, sir (we are twin
children), you ought to know, to her honour, that nothing in our
misery ever subdued her, though it often cowed me. When we ran
away from it (we ran away four times in six years, to be soon
brought back and cruelly punished), the flight was always of her
planning and leading. Each time she dressed as a boy, and showed
the daring of a man. I take it we were seven years old when we
first decamped; but I remember, when I lost the pocket-knife with
which she was to have cut her hair short, how desperately she tried
to tear it out, or bite it off. I have nothing further to say,
sir, except that I hope you will bear with me and make allowance
'Of that, Mr. Neville, you may be sure,' returned the Minor Canon.
'I don't preach more than I can help, and I will not repay your
confidence with a sermon. But I entreat you to bear in mind, very
seriously and steadily, that if I am to do you any good, it can
only be with your own assistance; and that you can only render
that, efficiently, by seeking aid from Heaven.'
'I will try to do my part, sir.'
'And, Mr. Neville, I will try to do mine. Here is my hand on it.
May God bless our endeavours!'
They were now standing at his house-door, and a cheerful sound of
voices and laughter was heard within.
'We will take one more turn before going in,' said Mr. Crisparkle,
'for I want to ask you a question. When you said you were in a
changed mind concerning me, you spoke, not only for yourself, but
for your sister too?'
'Undoubtedly I did, sir.'
'Excuse me, Mr. Neville, but I think you have had no opportunity of
communicating with your sister, since I met you. Mr. Honeythunder
was very eloquent; but perhaps I may venture to say, without ill-
nature, that he rather monopolised the occasion. May you not have
answered for your sister without sufficient warrant?'
Neville shook his head with a proud smile.
'You don't know, sir, yet, what a complete understanding can exist
between my sister and me, though no spoken word--perhaps hardly as
much as a look--may have passed between us. She not only feels as
I have described, but she very well knows that I am taking this
opportunity of speaking to you, both for her and for myself.'
Mr. Crisparkle looked in his face, with some incredulity; but his
face expressed such absolute and firm conviction of the truth of
what he said, that Mr. Crisparkle looked at the pavement, and
mused, until they came to his door again.
'I will ask for one more turn, sir, this time,' said the young man,
with a rather heightened colour rising in his face. 'But for Mr.
Honeythunder's--I think you called it eloquence, sir?' (somewhat
'I--yes, I called it eloquence,' said Mr. Crisparkle.
'But for Mr. Honeythunder's eloquence, I might have had no need to
ask you what I am going to ask you. This Mr. Edwin Drood, sir: I
think that's the name?'
'Quite correct,' said Mr. Crisparkle. 'D-r-double o-d.'
'Does he--or did he--read with you, sir?'
'Never, Mr. Neville. He comes here visiting his relation, Mr.
'Is Miss Bud his relation too, sir?'
('Now, why should he ask that, with sudden superciliousness?'
thought Mr. Crisparkle.) Then he explained, aloud, what he knew of
the little story of their betrothal.
'O! THAT'S it, is it?' said the young man. 'I understand his air
of proprietorship now!'
This was said so evidently to himself, or to anybody rather than
Mr. Crisparkle, that the latter instinctively felt as if to notice
it would be almost tantamount to noticing a passage in a letter
which he had read by chance over the writer's shoulder. A moment
afterwards they re-entered the house.
Mr. Jasper was seated at the piano as they came into his drawing-
room, and was accompanying Miss Rosebud while she sang. It was a
consequence of his playing the accompaniment without notes, and of
her being a heedless little creature, very apt to go wrong, that he
followed her lips most attentively, with his eyes as well as hands;
carefully and softly hinting the key-note from time to time.
Standing with an arm drawn round her, but with a face far more
intent on Mr. Jasper than on her singing, stood Helena, between
whom and her brother an instantaneous recognition passed, in which
Mr. Crisparkle saw, or thought he saw, the understanding that had
been spoken of, flash out. Mr. Neville then took his admiring
station, leaning against the piano, opposite the singer; Mr.
Crisparkle sat down by the china shepherdess; Edwin Drood gallantly
furled and unfurled Miss Twinkleton's fan; and that lady passively
claimed that sort of exhibitor's proprietorship in the
accomplishment on view, which Mr. Tope, the Verger, daily claimed
in the Cathedral service.
The song went on. It was a sorrowful strain of parting, and the
fresh young voice was very plaintive and tender. As Jasper watched
the pretty lips, and ever and again hinted the one note, as though
it were a low whisper from himself, the voice became less steady,
until all at once the singer broke into a burst of tears, and
shrieked out, with her hands over her eyes: 'I can't bear this! I
am frightened! Take me away!'
With one swift turn of her lithe figures Helena laid the little
beauty on a sofa, as if she had never caught her up. Then, on one
knee beside her, and with one hand upon her rosy mouth, while with
the other she appealed to all the rest, Helena said to them: 'It's
nothing; it's all over; don't speak to her for one minute, and she
Jasper's hands had, in the same instant, lifted themselves from the
keys, and were now poised above them, as though he waited to
resume. In that attitude he yet sat quiet: not even looking
round, when all the rest had changed their places and were
reassuring one another.
'Pussy's not used to an audience; that's the fact,' said Edwin
Drood. 'She got nervous, and couldn't hold out. Besides, Jack,
you are such a conscientious master, and require so much, that I
believe you make her afraid of you. No wonder.'
'No wonder,' repeated Helena.
'There, Jack, you hear! You would be afraid of him, under similar
circumstances, wouldn't you, Miss Landless?'
'Not under any circumstances,' returned Helena.
Jasper brought down his hands, looked over his shoulder, and begged
to thank Miss Landless for her vindication of his character. Then
he fell to dumbly playing, without striking the notes, while his
little pupil was taken to an open window for air, and was otherwise
petted and restored. When she was brought back, his place was
empty. 'Jack's gone, Pussy,' Edwin told her. 'I am more than half
afraid he didn't like to be charged with being the Monster who had
frightened you.' But she answered never a word, and shivered, as
if they had made her a little too cold.
Miss Twinkleton now opining that indeed these were late hours, Mrs.
Crisparkle, for finding ourselves outside the walls of the Nuns'
House, and that we who undertook the formation of the future wives
and mothers of England (the last words in a lower voice, as
requiring to be communicated in confidence) were really bound
(voice coming up again) to set a better example than one of rakish
habits, wrappers were put in requisition, and the two young
cavaliers volunteered to see the ladies home. It was soon done,
and the gate of the Nuns' House closed upon them.
The boarders had retired, and only Mrs. Tisher in solitary vigil
awaited the new pupil. Her bedroom being within Rosa's, very
little introduction or explanation was necessary, before she was
placed in charge of her new friend, and left for the night.
'This is a blessed relief, my dear,' said Helena. 'I have been
dreading all day, that I should be brought to bay at this time.'
'There are not many of us,' returned Rosa, 'and we are good-natured
girls; at least the others are; I can answer for them.'
'I can answer for you,' laughed Helena, searching the lovely little
face with her dark, fiery eyes, and tenderly caressing the small
figure. 'You will be a friend to me, won't you?'
'I hope so. But the idea of my being a friend to you seems too
'O, I am such a mite of a thing, and you are so womanly and
handsome. You seem to have resolution and power enough to crush
me. I shrink into nothing by the side of your presence even.'
'I am a neglected creature, my dear, unacquainted with all
accomplishments, sensitively conscious that I have everything to
learn, and deeply ashamed to own my ignorance.'
'And yet you acknowledge everything to me!' said Rosa.
'My pretty one, can I help it? There is a fascination in you.'
'O! is there though?' pouted Rosa, half in jest and half in
earnest. 'What a pity Master Eddy doesn't feel it more!'
Of course her relations towards that young gentleman had been
already imparted in Minor Canon Corner.
'Why, surely he must love you with all his heart!' cried Helena,
with an earnestness that threatened to blaze into ferocity if he
'Eh? O, well, I suppose he does,' said Rosa, pouting again; 'I am
sure I have no right to say he doesn't. Perhaps it's my fault.
Perhaps I am not as nice to him as I ought to be. I don't think I
am. But it IS so ridiculous!'
Helena's eyes demanded what was.
'WE are,' said Rosa, answering as if she had spoken. 'We are such
a ridiculous couple. And we are always quarrelling.'
'Because we both know we are ridiculous, my dear!' Rosa gave that
answer as if it were the most conclusive answer in the world.
Helena's masterful look was intent upon her face for a few moments,
and then she impulsively put out both her hands and said:
'You will be my friend and help me?'
'Indeed, my dear, I will,' replied Rosa, in a tone of affectionate
childishness that went straight and true to her heart; 'I will be
as good a friend as such a mite of a thing can be to such a noble
creature as you. And be a friend to me, please; I don't understand
myself: and I want a friend who can understand me, very much
Helena Landless kissed her, and retaining both her hands said:
'Who is Mr. Jasper?'
Rosa turned aside her head in answering: 'Eddy's uncle, and my
'You do not love him?'
'Ugh!' She put her hands up to her face, and shook with fear or
'You know that he loves you?'
'O, don't, don't, don't!' cried Rosa, dropping on her knees, and
clinging to her new resource. 'Don't tell me of it! He terrifies
me. He haunts my thoughts, like a dreadful ghost. I feel that I
am never safe from him. I feel as if he could pass in through the
wall when he is spoken of.' She actually did look round, as if she
dreaded to see him standing in the shadow behind her.
'Try to tell me more about it, darling.'
'Yes, I will, I will. Because you are so strong. But hold me the
while, and stay with me afterwards.'
'My child! You speak as if he had threatened you in some dark
'He has never spoken to me about--that. Never.'
'What has he done?'
'He has made a slave of me with his looks. He has forced me to
understand him, without his saying a word; and he has forced me to
keep silence, without his uttering a threat. When I play, he never
moves his eyes from my hands. When I sing, he never moves his eyes
from my lips. When he corrects me, and strikes a note, or a chord,
or plays a passage, he himself is in the sounds, whispering that he
pursues me as a lover, and commanding me to keep his secret. I
avoid his eyes, but he forces me to see them without looking at
them. Even when a glaze comes over them (which is sometimes the
case), and he seems to wander away into a frightful sort of dream
in which he threatens most, he obliges me to know it, and to know
that he is sitting close at my side, more terrible to me than
'What is this imagined threatening, pretty one? What is
'I don't know. I have never even dared to think or wonder what it
'And was this all, to-night?'
'This was all; except that to-night when he watched my lips so
closely as I was singing, besides feeling terrified I felt ashamed
and passionately hurt. It was as if he kissed me, and I couldn't
bear it, but cried out. You must never breathe this to any one.
Eddy is devoted to him. But you said to-night that you would not
be afraid of him, under any circumstances, and that gives me--who
am so much afraid of him--courage to tell only you. Hold me! Stay
with me! I am too frightened to be left by myself.'
The lustrous gipsy-face drooped over the clinging arms and bosom,
and the wild black hair fell down protectingly over the childish
form. There was a slumbering gleam of fire in the intense dark
eyes, though they were then softened with compassion and
admiration. Let whomsoever it most concerned look well to it!
CHAPTER VIII--DAGGERS DRAWN
The two young men, having seen the damsels, their charges, enter
the courtyard of the Nuns' House, and finding themselves coldly
stared at by the brazen door-plate, as if the battered old beau
with the glass in his eye were insolent, look at one another, look
along the perspective of the moonlit street, and slowly walk away
'Do you stay here long, Mr. Drood?' says Neville.
'Not this time,' is the careless answer. 'I leave for London
again, to-morrow. But I shall be here, off and on, until next
Midsummer; then I shall take my leave of Cloisterham, and England
too; for many a long day, I expect.'
'Are you going abroad?'
'Going to wake up Egypt a little,' is the condescending answer.
'Are you reading?'
'Reading?' repeats Edwin Drood, with a touch of contempt. 'No.
Doing, working, engineering. My small patrimony was left a part of
the capital of the Firm I am with, by my father, a former partner;
and I am a charge upon the Firm until I come of age; and then I
step into my modest share in the concern. Jack--you met him at
dinner--is, until then, my guardian and trustee.'
'I heard from Mr. Crisparkle of your other good fortune.'
'What do you mean by my other good fortune?'
Neville has made his remark in a watchfully advancing, and yet
furtive and shy manner, very expressive of that peculiar air
already noticed, of being at once hunter and hunted. Edwin has
made his retort with an abruptness not at all polite. They stop
and interchange a rather heated look.
'I hope,' says Neville, 'there is no offence, Mr. Drood, in my
innocently referring to your betrothal?'
'By George!' cries Edwin, leading on again at a somewhat quicker
pace; 'everybody in this chattering old Cloisterham refers to it I
wonder no public-house has been set up, with my portrait for the
sign of The Betrothed's Head. Or Pussy's portrait. One or the
'I am not accountable for Mr. Crisparkle's mentioning the matter to
me, quite openly,' Neville begins.
'No; that's true; you are not,' Edwin Drood assents.
'But,' resumes Neville, 'I am accountable for mentioning it to you.
And I did so, on the supposition that you could not fail to be
highly proud of it.'
Now, there are these two curious touches of human nature working
the secret springs of this dialogue. Neville Landless is already
enough impressed by Little Rosebud, to feel indignant that Edwin
Drood (far below her) should hold his prize so lightly. Edwin
Drood is already enough impressed by Helena, to feel indignant that
Helena's brother (far below her) should dispose of him so coolly,
and put him out of the way so entirely.
However, the last remark had better be answered. So, says Edwin:
'I don't know, Mr. Neville' (adopting that mode of address from Mr.
Crisparkle), 'that what people are proudest of, they usually talk
most about; I don't know either, that what they are proudest of,
they most like other people to talk about. But I live a busy life,
and I speak under correction by you readers, who ought to know
everything, and I daresay do.'
By this time they had both become savage; Mr. Neville out in the
open; Edwin Drood under the transparent cover of a popular tune,
and a stop now and then to pretend to admire picturesque effects in
the moonlight before him.
'It does not seem to me very civil in you,' remarks Neville, at
length, 'to reflect upon a stranger who comes here, not having had
your advantages, to try to make up for lost time. But, to be sure,
I was not brought up in "busy life," and my ideas of civility were
formed among Heathens.'
'Perhaps, the best civility, whatever kind of people we are brought
up among,' retorts Edwin Drood, 'is to mind our own business. If
you will set me that example, I promise to follow it.'
'Do you know that you take a great deal too much upon yourself?' is
the angry rejoinder, 'and that in the part of the world I come
from, you would be called to account for it?'
'By whom, for instance?' asks Edwin Drood, coming to a halt, and
surveying the other with a look of disdain.
But, here a startling right hand is laid on Edwin's shoulder, and
Jasper stands between them. For, it would seem that he, too, has
strolled round by the Nuns' House, and has come up behind them on
the shadowy side of the road.
'Ned, Ned, Ned!' he says; 'we must have no more of this. I don't
like this. I have overheard high words between you two. Remember,
my dear boy, you are almost in the position of host to-night. You
belong, as it were, to the place, and in a manner represent it
towards a stranger. Mr. Neville is a stranger, and you should
respect the obligations of hospitality. And, Mr. Neville,' laying
his left hand on the inner shoulder of that young gentleman, and
thus walking on between them, hand to shoulder on either side:
'you will pardon me; but I appeal to you to govern your temper too.
Now, what is amiss? But why ask! Let there be nothing amiss, and
the question is superfluous. We are all three on a good
understanding, are we not?'
After a silent struggle between the two young men who shall speak
last, Edwin Drood strikes in with: 'So far as I am concerned,
Jack, there is no anger in me.'
'Nor in me,' says Neville Landless, though not so freely; or
perhaps so carelessly. 'But if Mr. Drood knew all that lies behind
me, far away from here, he might know better how it is that sharp-
edged words have sharp edges to wound me.'
'Perhaps,' says Jasper, in a soothing manner, 'we had better not
qualify our good understanding. We had better not say anything
having the appearance of a remonstrance or condition; it might not
seem generous. Frankly and freely, you see there is no anger in
Ned. Frankly and freely, there is no anger in you, Mr. Neville?'
'None at all, Mr. Jasper.' Still, not quite so frankly or so
freely; or, be it said once again, not quite so carelessly perhaps.
'All over then! Now, my bachelor gatehouse is a few yards from
here, and the heater is on the fire, and the wine and glasses are
on the table, and it is not a stone's throw from Minor Canon
Corner. Ned, you are up and away to-morrow. We will carry Mr.
Neville in with us, to take a stirrup-cup.'
'With all my heart, Jack.'
'And with all mine, Mr. Jasper.' Neville feels it impossible to
say less, but would rather not go. He has an impression upon him
that he has lost hold of his temper; feels that Edwin Drood's
coolness, so far from being infectious, makes him red-hot.
Mr. Jasper, still walking in the centre, hand to shoulder on either
side, beautifully turns the Refrain of a drinking song, and they
all go up to his rooms. There, the first object visible, when he
adds the light of a lamp to that of the fire, is the portrait over
the chimneypicce. It is not an object calculated to improve the
understanding between the two young men, as rather awkwardly
reviving the subject of their difference. Accordingly, they both
glance at it consciously, but say nothing. Jasper, however (who
would appear from his conduct to have gained but an imperfect clue
to the cause of their late high words), directly calls attention to
'You recognise that picture, Mr. Neville?' shading the lamp to
throw the light upon it.
'I recognise it, but it is far from flattering the original.'
'O, you are hard upon it! It was done by Ned, who made me a
present of it.'
'I am sorry for that, Mr. Drood.' Neville apologises, with a real
intention to apologise; 'if I had known I was in the artist's
'O, a joke, sir, a mere joke,' Edwin cuts in, with a provoking
yawn. 'A little humouring of Pussy's points! I'm going to paint
her gravely, one of these days, if she's good.'
The air of leisurely patronage and indifference with which this is
said, as the speaker throws himself back in a chair and clasps his
hands at the back of his head, as a rest for it, is very
exasperating to the excitable and excited Neville. Jasper looks
observantly from the one to the other, slightly smiles, and turns
his back to mix a jug of mulled wine at the fire. It seems to
require much mixing and compounding.
'I suppose, Mr. Neville,' says Edwin, quick to resent the indignant
protest against himself in the face of young Landless, which is
fully as visible as the portrait, or the fire, or the lamp: 'I
suppose that if you painted the picture of your lady love--'
'I can't paint,' is the hasty interruption.
'That's your misfortune, and not your fault. You would if you
could. But if you could, I suppose you would make her (no matter
what she was in reality), Juno, Minerva, Diana, and Venus, all in
'I have no lady love, and I can't say.'
'If I were to try my hand,' says Edwin, with a boyish boastfulness
getting up in him, 'on a portrait of Miss Landless--in earnest,
mind you; in earnest--you should see what I could do!'
'My sister's consent to sit for it being first got, I suppose? As
it never will be got, I am afraid I shall never see what you can
do. I must bear the loss.'
Jasper turns round from the fire, fills a large goblet glass for
Neville, fills a large goblet glass for Edwin, and hands each his
own; then fills for himself, saying:
'Come, Mr. Neville, we are to drink to my nephew, Ned. As it is
his foot that is in the stirrup--metaphorically--our stirrup-cup is
to be devoted to him. Ned, my dearest fellow, my love!'
Jasper sets the example of nearly emptying his glass, and Neville
follows it. Edwin Drood says, 'Thank you both very much,' and
follows the double example.
'Look at him,' cries Jasper, stretching out his hand admiringly and
tenderly, though rallyingly too. 'See where he lounges so easily,
Mr. Neville! The world is all before him where to choose. A life
of stirring work and interest, a life of change and excitement, a
life of domestic ease and love! Look at him!'
Edwin Drood's face has become quickly and remarkably flushed with
the wine; so has the face of Neville Landless. Edwin still sits
thrown back in his chair, making that rest of clasped hands for his
'See how little he heeds it all!' Jasper proceeds in a bantering
vein. 'It is hardly worth his while to pluck the golden fruit that
hangs ripe on the tree for him. And yet consider the contrast, Mr.
Neville. You and I have no prospect of stirring work and interest,
or of change and excitement, or of domestic ease and love. You and
I have no prospect (unless you are more fortunate than I am, which
may easily be), but the tedious unchanging round of this dull
'Upon my soul, Jack,' says Edwin, complacently, 'I feel quite
apologetic for having my way smoothed as you describe. But you
know what I know, Jack, and it may not be so very easy as it seems,
after all. May it, Pussy?' To the portrait, with a snap of his
thumb and finger. 'We have got to hit it off yet; haven't we,
Pussy? You know what I mean, Jack.'
His speech has become thick and indistinct. Jasper, quiet and
self-possessed, looks to Neville, as expecting his answer or
comment. When Neville speaks, HIS speech is also thick and
'It might have been better for Mr. Drood to have known some
hardships,' he says, defiantly.
'Pray,' retorts Edwin, turning merely his eyes in that direction,
'pray why might it have been better for Mr. Drood to have known
'Ay,' Jasper assents, with an air of interest; 'let us know why?'
'Because they might have made him more sensible,' says Neville, 'of
good fortune that is not by any means necessarily the result of his
Mr. Jasper quickly looks to his nephew for his rejoinder.
'Have YOU known hardships, may I ask?' says Edwin Drood, sitting
Mr. Jasper quickly looks to the other for his retort.
'And what have they made you sensible of?'
Mr. Jasper's play of eyes between the two holds good throughout the
dialogue, to the end.
'I have told you once before to-night.'
'You have done nothing of the sort.'
'I tell you I have. That you take a great deal too much upon
'You added something else to that, if I remember?'
'Yes, I did say something else.'
'Say it again.'
'I said that in the part of the world I come from, you would be
called to account for it.'
'Only there?' cries Edwin Drood, with a contemptuous laugh. 'A
long way off, I believe? Yes; I see! That part of the world is at
a safe distance.'
'Say here, then,' rejoins the other, rising in a fury. 'Say
anywhere! Your vanity is intolerable, your conceit is beyond
endurance; you talk as if you were some rare and precious prize,
instead of a common boaster. You are a common fellow, and a common
'Pooh, pooh,' says Edwin Drood, equally furious, but more
collected; 'how should you know? You may know a black common
fellow, or a black common boaster, when you see him (and no doubt
you have a large acquaintance that way); but you are no judge of
This insulting allusion to his dark skin infuriates Neville to that
violent degree, that he flings the dregs of his wine at Edwin
Drood, and is in the act of flinging the goblet after it, when his
arm is caught in the nick of time by Jasper.
'Ned, my dear fellow!' he cries in a loud voice; 'I entreat you, I
command you, to be still!' There has been a rush of all the three,
and a clattering of glasses and overturning of chairs. 'Mr.
Neville, for shame! Give this glass to me. Open your hand, sir.
I WILL have it!'
But Neville throws him off, and pauses for an instant, in a raging
passion, with the goblet yet in his uplifted hand. Then, he dashes
it down under the grate, with such force that the broken splinters
fly out again in a shower; and he leaves the house.
When he first emerges into the night air, nothing around him is
still or steady; nothing around him shows like what it is; he only
knows that he stands with a bare head in the midst of a blood-red
whirl, waiting to be struggled with, and to struggle to the death.
But, nothing happening, and the moon looking down upon him as if he
were dead after a fit of wrath, he holds his steam-hammer beating
head and heart, and staggers away. Then, he becomes half-conscious
of having heard himself bolted and barred out, like a dangerous
animal; and thinks what shall he do?
Some wildly passionate ideas of the river dissolve under the spell
of the moonlight on the Cathedral and the graves, and the
remembrance of his sister, and the thought of what he owes to the
good man who has but that very day won his confidence and given him
his pledge. He repairs to Minor Canon Corner, and knocks softly at
It is Mr. Crisparkle's custom to sit up last of the early
household, very softly touching his piano and practising his
favourite parts in concerted vocal music. The south wind that goes
where it lists, by way of Minor Canon Corner on a still night, is
not more subdued than Mr. Crisparkle at such times, regardful of
the slumbers of the china shepherdess.
His knock is immediately answered by Mr. Crisparkle himself. When
he opens the door, candle in hand, his cheerful face falls, and
disappointed amazement is in it.
'Mr. Neville! In this disorder! Where have you been?'
'I have been to Mr. Jasper's, sir. With his nephew.'
The Minor Canon props him by the elbow with a strong hand (in a
strictly scientific manner, worthy of his morning trainings), and
turns him into his own little book-room, and shuts the door.'
'I have begun ill, sir. I have begun dreadfully ill.'
'Too true. You are not sober, Mr. Neville.'
'I am afraid I am not, sir, though I can satisfy you at another
time that I have had a very little indeed to drink, and that it
overcame me in the strangest and most sudden manner.'
'Mr. Neville, Mr. Neville,' says the Minor Canon, shaking his head
with a sorrowful smile; 'I have heard that said before.'
'I think--my mind is much confused, but I think--it is equally true
of Mr. Jasper's nephew, sir.'
'Very likely,' is the dry rejoinder.
'We quarrelled, sir. He insulted me most grossly. He had heated
that tigerish blood I told you of to-day, before then.'
'Mr. Neville,' rejoins the Minor Canon, mildly, but firmly: 'I
request you not to speak to me with that clenched right hand.
Unclench it, if you please.'
'He goaded me, sir,' pursues the young man, instantly obeying,
'beyond my power of endurance. I cannot say whether or no he meant
it at first, but he did it. He certainly meant it at last. In
short, sir,' with an irrepressible outburst, 'in the passion into
which he lashed me, I would have cut him down if I could, and I
tried to do it.'
'You have clenched that hand again,' is Mr. Crisparkle's quiet
'I beg your pardon, sir.'
'You know your room, for I showed it you before dinner; but I will
accompany you to it once more. Your arm, if you please. Softly,
for the house is all a-bed.'
Scooping his hand into the same scientific elbow-rest as before,
and backing it up with the inert strength of his arm, as skilfully
as a Police Expert, and with an apparent repose quite unattainable
by novices, Mr. Crisparkle conducts his pupil to the pleasant and
orderly old room prepared for him. Arrived there, the young man
throws himself into a chair, and, flinging his arms upon his
reading-table, rests his head upon them with an air of wretched
The gentle Minor Canon has had it in his thoughts to leave the
room, without a word. But looking round at the door, and seeing
this dejected figure, he turns back to it, touches it with a mild
hand, says 'Good night!' A sob is his only acknowledgment. He
might have had many a worse; perhaps, could have had few better.
Another soft knock at the outer door attracts his attention as he
goes down-stairs. He opens it to Mr. Jasper, holding in his hand
the pupil's hat.
'We have had an awful scene with him,' says Jasper, in a low voice.
'Has it been so bad as that?'
Mr. Crisparkle remonstrates: 'No, no, no. Do not use such strong
'He might have laid my dear boy dead at my feet. It is no fault of
his, that he did not. But that I was, through the mercy of God,
swift and strong with him, he would have cut him down on my
The phrase smites home. 'Ah!' thinks Mr. Crisparkle, 'his own
'Seeing what I have seen to-night, and hearing what I have heard,'
adds Jasper, with great earnestness, 'I shall never know peace of
mind when there is danger of those two coming together, with no one
else to interfere. It was horrible. There is something of the
tiger in his dark blood.'
'Ah!' thinks Mr. Crisparkle, 'so he said!'
'You, my dear sir,' pursues Jasper, taking his hand, 'even you,
have accepted a dangerous charge.'
'You need have no fear for me, Jasper,' returns Mr. Crisparkle,
with a quiet smile. 'I have none for myself.'
'I have none for myself,' returns Jasper, with an emphasis on the
last pronoun, 'because I am not, nor am I in the way of being, the
object of his hostility. But you may be, and my dear boy has been.
Mr. Crisparkle goes in, with the hat that has so easily, so almost
imperceptibly, acquired the right to be hung up in his hall; hangs
it up; and goes thoughtfully to bed.
CHAPTER IX--BIRDS IN THE BUSH
Rosa, having no relation that she knew of in the world, had, from
the seventh year of her age, known no home but the Nuns' House, and
no mother but Miss Twinkleton. Her remembrance of her own mother
was of a pretty little creature like herself (not much older than
herself it seemed to her), who had been brought home in her
father's arms, drowned. The fatal accident had happened at a party
of pleasure. Every fold and colour in the pretty summer dress, and
even the long wet hair, with scattered petals of ruined flowers
still clinging to it, as the dead young figure, in its sad, sad
beauty lay upon the bed, were fixed indelibly in Rosa's
recollection. So were the wild despair and the subsequent bowed-
down grief of her poor young father, who died broken-hearted on the
first anniversary of that hard day.
The betrothal of Rosa grew out of the soothing of his year of
mental distress by his fast friend and old college companion,
Drood: who likewise had been left a widower in his youth. But he,
too, went the silent road into which all earthly pilgrimages merge,
some sooner, and some later; and thus the young couple had come to
be as they were.
The atmosphere of pity surrounding the little orphan girl when she
first came to Cloisterham, had never cleared away. It had taken
brighter hues as she grew older, happier, prettier; now it had been
golden, now roseate, and now azure; but it had always adorned her
with some soft light of its own. The general desire to console and
caress her, had caused her to be treated in the beginning as a
child much younger than her years; the same desire had caused her
to be still petted when she was a child no longer. Who should be
her favourite, who should anticipate this or that small present, or
do her this or that small service; who should take her home for the
holidays; who should write to her the oftenest when they were
separated, and whom she would most rejoice to see again when they
were reunited; even these gentle rivalries were not without their
slight dashes of bitterness in the Nuns' House. Well for the poor
Nuns in their day, if they hid no harder strife under their veils
Thus Rosa had grown to be an amiable, giddy, wilful, winning little
creature; spoilt, in the sense of counting upon kindness from all
around her; but not in the sense of repaying it with indifference.
Possessing an exhaustless well of affection in her nature, its
sparkling waters had freshened and brightened the Nuns' House for
years, and yet its depths had never yet been moved: what might
betide when that came to pass; what developing changes might fall
upon the heedless head, and light heart, then; remained to be seen.
By what means the news that there had been a quarrel between the
two young men overnight, involving even some kind of onslaught by
Mr. Neville upon Edwin Drood, got into Miss Twinkleton's
establishment before breakfast, it is impossible to say. Whether
it was brought in by the birds of the air, or came blowing in with
the very air itself, when the casement windows were set open;
whether the baker brought it kneaded into the bread, or the milkman
delivered it as part of the adulteration of his milk; or the
housemaids, beating the dust out of their mats against the
gateposts, received it in exchange deposited on the mats by the
town atmosphere; certain it is that the news permeated every gable
of the old building before Miss Twinkleton was down, and that Miss
Twinkleton herself received it through Mrs. Tisher, while yet in
the act of dressing; or (as she might have expressed the phrase to
a parent or guardian of a mythological turn) of sacrificing to the
Miss Landless's brother had thrown a bottle at Mr. Edwin Drood.
Miss Landless's brother had thrown a knife at Mr. Edwin Drood.
A knife became suggestive of a fork; and Miss Landless's brother
had thrown a fork at Mr. Edwin Drood.
As in the governing precedence of Peter Piper, alleged to have
picked the peck of pickled pepper, it was held physically desirable
to have evidence of the existence of the peck of pickled pepper
which Peter Piper was alleged to have picked; so, in this case, it
was held psychologically important to know why Miss Landless's
brother threw a bottle, knife, or fork-or bottle, knife, AND fork--
for the cook had been given to understand it was all three--at Mr.
Well, then. Miss Landless's brother had said he admired Miss Bud.
Mr. Edwin Drood had said to Miss Landless's brother that he had no
business to admire Miss Bud. Miss Landless's brother had then
'up'd' (this was the cook's exact information) with the bottle,
knife, fork, and decanter (the decanter now coolly flying at
everybody's head, without the least introduction), and thrown them
all at Mr. Edwin Drood.
Poor little Rosa put a forefinger into each of her ears when these
rumours began to circulate, and retired into a corner, beseeching
not to be told any more; but Miss Landless, begging permission of
Miss Twinkleton to go and speak with her brother, and pretty
plainly showing that she would take it if it were not given, struck
out the more definite course of going to Mr. Crisparkle's for
When she came back (being first closeted with Miss Twinkleton, in
order that anything objectionable in her tidings might be retained
by that discreet filter), she imparted to Rosa only, what had taken
place; dwelling with a flushed cheek on the provocation her brother
had received, but almost limiting it to that last gross affront as
crowning 'some other words between them,' and, out of consideration
for her new friend, passing lightly over the fact that the other
words had originated in her lover's taking things in general so
very easily. To Rosa direct, she brought a petition from her
brother that she would forgive him; and, having delivered it with
sisterly earnestness, made an end of the subject.
It was reserved for Miss Twinkleton to tone down the public mind of
the Nuns' House. That lady, therefore, entering in a stately
manner what plebeians might have called the school-room, but what,
in the patrician language of the head of the Nuns' House, was
euphuistically, not to say round-aboutedly, denominated 'the
apartment allotted to study,' and saying with a forensic air,
'Ladies!' all rose. Mrs. Tisher at the same time grouped herself
behind her chief, as representing Queen Elizabeth's first
historical female friend at Tilbury fort. Miss Twinkleton then
proceeded to remark that Rumour, Ladies, had been represented by
the bard of Avon--needless were it to mention the immortal
SHAKESPEARE, also called the Swan of his native river, not
improbably with some reference to the ancient superstition that
that bird of graceful plumage (Miss Jennings will please stand
upright) sang sweetly on the approach of death, for which we have
no ornithological authority,--Rumour, Ladies, had been represented
by that bard--hem! -
The celebrated Jew,'
as painted full of tongues. Rumour in Cloisterham (Miss Ferdinand
will honour me with her attention) was no exception to the great
limner's portrait of Rumour elsewhere. A slight fracas between two
young gentlemen occurring last night within a hundred miles of
these peaceful walls (Miss Ferdinand, being apparently
incorrigible, will have the kindness to write out this evening, in
the original language, the first four fables of our vivacious
neighbour, Monsieur La Fontaine) had been very grossly exaggerated
by Rumour's voice. In the first alarm and anxiety arising from our
sympathy with a sweet young friend, not wholly to be dissociated
from one of the gladiators in the bloodless arena in question (the
impropriety of Miss Reynolds's appearing to stab herself in the
hand with a pin, is far too obvious, and too glaringly unladylike,
to be pointed out), we descended from our maiden elevation to
discuss this uncongenial and this unfit theme. Responsible
inquiries having assured us that it was but one of those 'airy
nothings' pointed at by the Poet (whose name and date of birth Miss
Giggles will supply within half an hour), we would now discard the
subject, and concentrate our minds upon the grateful labours of the
But the subject so survived all day, nevertheless, that Miss
Ferdinand got into new trouble by surreptitiously clapping on a
paper moustache at dinner-time, and going through the motions of
aiming a water-bottle at Miss Giggles, who drew a table-spoon in
Now, Rosa thought of this unlucky quarrel a great deal, and thought
of it with an uncomfortable feeling that she was involved in it, as
cause, or consequence, or what not, through being in a false
position altogether as to her marriage engagement. Never free from
such uneasiness when she was with her affianced husband, it was not
likely that she would be free from it when they were apart. To-
day, too, she was cast in upon herself, and deprived of the relief
of talking freely with her new friend, because the quarrel had been
with Helena's brother, and Helena undisguisedly avoided the subject
as a delicate and difficult one to herself. At this critical time,
of all times, Rosa's guardian was announced as having come to see
Mr. Grewgious had been well selected for his trust, as a man of
incorruptible integrity, but certainly for no other appropriate
quality discernible on the surface. He was an arid, sandy man,
who, if he had been put into a grinding-mill, looked as if he would
have ground immediately into high-dried snuff. He had a scanty
flat crop of hair, in colour and consistency like some very mangy
yellow fur tippet; it was so unlike hair, that it must have been a
wig, but for the stupendous improbability of anybody's voluntarily
sporting such a head. The little play of feature that his face
presented, was cut deep into it, in a few hard curves that made it
more like work; and he had certain notches in his forehead, which
looked as though Nature had been about to touch them into
sensibility or refinement, when she had impatiently thrown away the
chisel, and said: 'I really cannot be worried to finish off this
man; let him go as he is.'
With too great length of throat at his upper end, and too much
ankle-bone and heel at his lower; with an awkward and hesitating
manner; with a shambling walk; and with what is called a near
sight--which perhaps prevented his observing how much white cotton
stocking he displayed to the public eye, in contrast with his black
suit--Mr. Grewgious still had some strange capacity in him of
making on the whole an agreeable impression.
Mr. Grewgious was discovered by his ward, much discomfited by being
in Miss Twinkleton's company in Miss Twinkleton's own sacred room.
Dim forebodings of being examined in something, and not coming well
out of it, seemed to oppress the poor gentleman when found in these
'My dear, how do you do? I am glad to see you. My dear, how much
improved you are. Permit me to hand you a chair, my dear.'
Miss Twinkleton rose at her little writing-table, saying, with
general sweetness, as to the polite Universe: 'Will you permit me
'By no means, madam, on my account. I beg that you will not move.'
'I must entreat permission to MOVE,' returned Miss Twinkleton,
repeating the word with a charming grace; 'but I will not withdraw,
since you are so obliging. If I wheel my desk to this corner
window, shall I be in the way?'
'Madam! In the way!'
'You are very kind.--Rosa, my dear, you will be under no restraint,
I am sure.'
Here Mr. Grewgious, left by the fire with Rosa, said again: 'My
dear, how do you do? I am glad to see you, my dear.' And having
waited for her to sit down, sat down himself.
'My visits,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'are, like those of the angels--
not that I compare myself to an angel.'
'No, sir,' said Rosa.
'Not by any means,' assented Mr. Grewgious. 'I merely refer to my
visits, which are few and far between. The angels are, we know
very well, up-stairs.'
Miss Twinkleton looked round with a kind of stiff stare.
'I refer, my dear,' said Mr. Grewgious, laying his hand on Rosa's,
as the possibility thrilled through his frame of his otherwise
seeming to take the awful liberty of calling Miss Twinkleton my
dear; 'I refer to the other young ladies.'
Miss Twinkleton resumed her writing.
Mr. Grewgious, with a sense of not having managed his opening point
quite as neatly as he might have desired, smoothed his head from
back to front as if he had just dived, and were pressing the water
out--this smoothing action, however superfluous, was habitual with
him--and took a pocket-book from his coat-pocket, and a stump of
black-lead pencil from his waistcoat-pocket.
'I made,' he said, turning the leaves: 'I made a guiding
memorandum or so--as I usually do, for I have no conversational
powers whatever--to which I will, with your permission, my dear,
refer. "Well and happy." Truly. You are well and happy, my dear?
You look so.'
'Yes, indeed, sir,' answered Rosa.
'For which,' said Mr. Grewgious, with a bend of his head towards
the corner window, 'our warmest acknowledgments are due, and I am
sure are rendered, to the maternal kindness and the constant care
and consideration of the lady whom I have now the honour to see
This point, again, made but a lame departure from Mr. Grewgious,
and never got to its destination; for, Miss Twinkleton, feeling
that the courtesies required her to be by this time quite outside
the conversation, was biting the end of her pen, and looking
upward, as waiting for the descent of an idea from any member of
the Celestial Nine who might have one to spare.
Mr. Grewgious smoothed his smooth head again, and then made another
reference to his pocket-book; lining out 'well and happy,' as
'"Pounds, shillings, and pence," is my next note. A dry subject
for a young lady, but an important subject too. Life is pounds,
shillings, and pence. Death is--' A sudden recollection of the
death of her two parents seemed to stop him, and he said in a
softer tone, and evidently inserting the negative as an after-
thought: 'Death is NOT pounds, shillings, and pence.'
His voice was as hard and dry as himself, and Fancy might have
ground it straight, like himself, into high-dried snuff. And yet,
through the very limited means of expression that he possessed, he
seemed to express kindness. If Nature had but finished him off,
kindness might have been recognisable in his face at this moment.
But if the notches in his forehead wouldn't fuse together, and if
his face would work and couldn't play, what could he do, poor man!
'"Pounds, shillings, and pence." You find your allowance always
sufficient for your wants, my dear?'
Rosa wanted for nothing, and therefore it was ample.
'And you are not in debt?'
Rosa laughed at the idea of being in debt. It seemed, to her
inexperience, a comical vagary of the imagination. Mr. Grewgious
stretched his near sight to be sure that this was her view of the
case. 'Ah!' he said, as comment, with a furtive glance towards
Miss Twinkleton, and lining out pounds, shillings, and pence: 'I
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 carried his smoothing hand down
over his eyes and nose, and even chin, before drawing his chair a
little nearer, and speaking a little more confidentially: 'I now
touch, my dear, upon the point that is the direct cause of my
troubling you with the present visit. Othenwise, 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
unfitted. I 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, pouting, 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
suddenly 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 YOU 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 graceful
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 parties 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 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 certified copy of it in your hands. And although Mr.
Edwin 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 himself?'
'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
'It is natural, I suppose,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'that your young
husband should be all in all. Yes. You observe that I say, I
suppose. The fact is, I am a particularly Unnatural 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
believe 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 inheritance, 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
marriage 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 fast friends, in order that we, too, might be very dear and
firm and fast friends after them?'
'For the lasting good of both of us, and the lasting happiness of
both of us?'
'That we might be to one another even much more than they had been
to one another?'
'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!'
'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
her attested copy, as she sat with her head on one side, looking
abstractedly on the floor, and smoothing it with her foot.
'In short,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'this betrothal 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, partly,
indeed principally, to discharge myself of the duty of telling you,
my dear, that two young people can only be betrothed in marriage
(except as a matter of convenience, 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 happy. Is it to be supposed, for example,
that if either of your 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, inconclusive, and preposterous!'
Mr. Grewgious said all this, as if he were reading it aloud; or,
still more, as if he were repeating a lesson. So expressionless of
any approach to spontaneity were his face and manner.
'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."
My 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
'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 acquaintance) 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
Christmas, 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 tiptoe, 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 conversation with my ward, and I will
now release you from the incumbrance of my presence.'
'Nay, sir,' rejoined Miss Twinkleton, rising with a gracious
condescension: 'say not incumbrance. 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: far from it) goes to a school (not that this
is one: far from it), he 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 forefinger. 'O 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 present 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 intercession of your guardian, Mr. Grewgious.'
Miss Twinkleton here achieved a curtsey, suggestive 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 gatehouse, 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. Grewgious. 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, afternoon, 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 one feeble voice, rising and falling in a cracked,
monotonous mutter, could at intervals be faintly heard. In the
free outer air, the river, the green pastures, and the brown arable
lands, the teeming 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 became
gray, 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 him, rather quickly.
'You have not been sent for?'
'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 betrothal by deceased parents is.'