Part 3 out of 6
'And what is it--according to your judgment?'
Mr. Grewgious noticed the whiteness of the lips that asked the
question, and put it down to the chilling account of the Cathedral.
'I merely came to tell her that it could not be considered binding,
against any such reason for its dissolution as a want of affection,
or want of disposition to carry it into effect, on the side of
'May I ask, had you any especial reason for telling her that?'
Mr. Grewgious answered somewhat sharply: 'The especial reason of
doing my duty, sir. Simply that.' Then he added: 'Come, Mr.
Jasper; I know your affection for your nephew, and that you are
quick to feel on his behalf. I assure you that this implies not
the least doubt of, or disrespect to, your nephew.'
'You could not,' returned Jasper, with a friendly pressure of his
arm, as they walked on side by side, 'speak more handsomely.'
Mr. Grewgious pulled off his hat to smooth his head, and, having
smoothed it, nodded it contentedly, and put his hat on again.
'I will wager,' said Jasper, smiling--his lips were still so white
that he was conscious of it, and bit and moistened them while
speaking: 'I will wager that she hinted no wish to be released
'And you will win your wager, if you do,' retorted Mr. Grewgious.
'We should allow some margin for little maidenly delicacies in a
young motherless creature, under such circumstances, I suppose; it
is not in my line; what do you think?'
'There can be no doubt of it.'
'I am glad you say so. Because,' proceeded Mr. Grewgious, who had
all this time very knowingly felt his way round to action on his
remembrance of what she had said of Jasper himself: 'because she
seems to have some little delicate instinct that all preliminary
arrangements had best be made between Mr. Edwin Drood and herself,
don't you see? She don't want us, don't you know?'
Jasper touched himself on the breast, and said, somewhat
indistinctly: 'You mean me.'
Mr. Grewgious touched himself on the breast, and said: 'I mean us.
Therefore, let them have their little discussions and councils
together, when Mr. Edwin Drood comes back here at Christmas; and
then you and I will step in, and put the final touches to the
'So, you settled with her that you would come back at Christmas?'
observed Jasper. 'I see! Mr. Grewgious, as you quite fairly said
just now, there is such an exceptional attachment between my nephew
and me, that I am more sensitive for the dear, fortunate, happy,
happy fellow than for myself. But it is only right that the young
lady should be considered, as you have pointed out, and that I
should accept my cue from you. I accept it. I understand that at
Christmas they will complete their preparations for May, and that
their marriage will be put in final train by themselves, and that
nothing will remain for us but to put ourselves in train also, and
have everything ready for our formal release from our trusts, on
'That is my understanding,' assented Mr. Grewgious, as they shook
hands to part. 'God bless them both!'
'God save them both!' cried Jasper.
'I said, bless them,' remarked the former, looking back over his
'I said, save them,' returned the latter. 'Is there any
CHAPTER X--SMOOTHING THE WAY
It has been often enough remarked that women have a curious power
of divining the characters of men, which would seem to be innate
and instinctive; seeing that it is arrived at through no patient
process of reasoning, that it can give no satisfactory or
sufficient account of itself, and that it pronounces in the most
confident manner even against accumulated observation on the part
of the other sex. But it has not been quite so often remarked that
this power (fallible, like every other human attribute) is for the
most part absolutely incapable of self-revision; and that when it
has delivered an adverse opinion which by all human lights is
subsequently proved to have failed, it is undistinguishable from
prejudice, in respect of its determination not to be corrected.
Nay, the very possibility of contradiction or disproof, however
remote, communicates to this feminine judgment from the first, in
nine cases out of ten, the weakness attendant on the testimony of
an interested witness; so personally and strongly does the fair
diviner connect herself with her divination.
'Now, don't you think, Ma dear,' said the Minor Canon to his mother
one day as she sat at her knitting in his little book-room, 'that
you are rather hard on Mr. Neville?'
'No, I do NOT, Sept,' returned the old lady.
'Let us discuss it, Ma.'
'I have no objection to discuss it, Sept. I trust, my dear, I am
always open to discussion.' There was a vibration in the old
lady's cap, as though she internally added: 'and I should like to
see the discussion that would change MY mind!'
'Very good, Ma,' said her conciliatory son. 'There is nothing like
being open to discussion.'
'I hope not, my dear,' returned the old lady, evidently shut to it.
'Well! Mr. Neville, on that unfortunate occasion, commits himself
'And under mulled wine,' added the old lady.
'I must admit the wine. Though I believe the two young men were
much alike in that regard.'
'I don't,' said the old lady.
'Why not, Ma?'
'Because I DON'T,' said the old lady. 'Still, I am quite open to
'But, my dear Ma, I cannot see how we are to discuss, if you take
'Blame Mr. Neville for it, Sept, and not me,' said the old lady,
with stately severity.
'My dear Ma! why Mr. Neville?'
'Because,' said Mrs. Crisparkle, retiring on first principles, 'he
came home intoxicated, and did great discredit to this house, and
showed great disrespect to this family.'
'That is not to be denied, Ma. He was then, and he is now, very
sorry for it.'
'But for Mr. Jasper's well-bred consideration in coming up to me,
next day, after service, in the Nave itself, with his gown still
on, and expressing his hope that I had not been greatly alarmed or
had my rest violently broken, I believe I might never have heard of
that disgraceful transaction,' said the old lady.
'To be candid, Ma, I think I should have kept it from you if I
could: though I had not decidedly made up my mind. I was
following Jasper out, to confer with him on the subject, and to
consider the expediency of his and my jointly hushing the thing up
on all accounts, when I found him speaking to you. Then it was too
'Too late, indeed, Sept. He was still as pale as gentlemanly ashes
at what had taken place in his rooms overnight.'
'If I HAD kept it from you, Ma, you may be sure it would have been
for your peace and quiet, and for the good of the young men, and in
my best discharge of my duty according to my lights.'
The old lady immediately walked across the room and kissed him:
saying, 'Of course, my dear Sept, I am sure of that.'
'However, it became the town-talk,' said Mr. Crisparkle, rubbing
his ear, as his mother resumed her seat, and her knitting, 'and
passed out of my power.'
'And I said then, Sept,' returned the old lady, 'that I thought ill
of Mr. Neville. And I say now, that I think ill of Mr. Neville.
And I said then, and I say now, that I hope Mr. Neville may come to
good, but I don't believe he will.' Here the cap vibrated again
'I am sorry to hear you say so, Ma--'
'I am sorry to say so, my dear,' interposed the old lady, knitting
on firmly, 'but I can't help it.'
'--For,' pursued the Minor Canon, 'it is undeniable that Mr.
Neville is exceedingly industrious and attentive, and that he
improves apace, and that he has--I hope I may say--an attachment to
'There is no merit in the last article, my dear,' said the old
lady, quickly; 'and if he says there is, I think the worse of him
for the boast.'
'But, my dear Ma, he never said there was.'
'Perhaps not,' returned the old lady; 'still, I don't see that it
There was no impatience in the pleasant look with which Mr.
Crisparkle contemplated the pretty old piece of china as it
knitted; but there was, certainly, a humorous sense of its not
being a piece of china to argue with very closely.
'Besides, Sept, ask yourself what he would be without his sister.
You know what an influence she has over him; you know what a
capacity she has; you know that whatever he reads with you, he
reads with her. Give her her fair share of your praise, and how
much do you leave for him?'
At these words Mr. Crisparkle fell into a little reverie, in which
he thought of several things. He thought of the times he had seen
the brother and sister together in deep converse over one of his
own old college books; now, in the rimy mornings, when he made
those sharpening pilgrimages to Cloisterham Weir; now, in the
sombre evenings, when he faced the wind at sunset, having climbed
his favourite outlook, a beetling fragment of monastery ruin; and
the two studious figures passed below him along the margin of the
river, in which the town fires and lights already shone, making the
landscape bleaker. He thought how the consciousness had stolen
upon him that in teaching one, he was teaching two; and how he had
almost insensibly adapted his explanations to both minds--that with
which his own was daily in contact, and that which he only
approached through it. He thought of the gossip that had reached
him from the Nuns' House, to the effect that Helena, whom he had
mistrusted as so proud and fierce, submitted herself to the fairy-
bride (as he called her), and learnt from her what she knew. He
thought of the picturesque alliance between those two, externally
so very different. He thought--perhaps most of all--could it be
that these things were yet but so many weeks old, and had become an
integral part of his life?
As, whenever the Reverend Septimus fell a-musing, his good mother
took it to be an infallible sign that he 'wanted support,' the
blooming old lady made all haste to the dining-room closet, to
produce from it the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a
home-made biscuit. It was a most wonderful closet, worthy of
Cloisterham and of Minor Canon Corner. Above it, a portrait of
Handel in a flowing wig beamed down at the spectator, with a
knowing air of being up to the contents of the closet, and a
musical air of intending to combine all its harmonies in one
delicious fugue. No common closet with a vulgar door on hinges,
openable all at once, and leaving nothing to be disclosed by
degrees, this rare closet had a lock in mid-air, where two
perpendicular slides met; the one falling down, and the other
pushing up. The upper slide, on being pulled down (leaving the
lower a double mystery), revealed deep shelves of pickle-jars, jam-
pots, tin canisters, spice-boxes, and agreeably outlandish vessels
of blue and white, the luscious lodgings of preserved tamarinds and
ginger. Every benevolent inhabitant of this retreat had his name
inscribed upon his stomach. The pickles, in a uniform of rich
brown double-breasted buttoned coat, and yellow or sombre drab
continuations, announced their portly forms, in printed capitals,
as Walnut, Gherkin, Onion, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Mixed, and other
members of that noble family. The jams, as being of a less
masculine temperament, and as wearing curlpapers, announced
themselves in feminine caligraphy, like a soft whisper, to be
Raspberry, Gooseberry, Apricot, Plum, Damson, Apple, and Peach.
The scene closing on these charmers, and the lower slide ascending,
oranges were revealed, attended by a mighty japanned sugar-box, to
temper their acerbity if unripe. Home-made biscuits waited at the
Court of these Powers, accompanied by a goodly fragment of plum-
cake, and various slender ladies' fingers, to be dipped into sweet
wine and kissed. Lowest of all, a compact leaden-vault enshrined
the sweet wine and a stock of cordials: whence issued whispers of
Seville Orange, Lemon, Almond, and Caraway-seed. There was a
crowning air upon this closet of closets, of having been for ages
hummed through by the Cathedral bell and organ, until those
venerable bees had made sublimated honey of everything in store;
and it was always observed that every dipper among the shelves
(deep, as has been noticed, and swallowing up head, shoulders, and
elbows) came forth again mellow-faced, and seeming to have
undergone a saccharine transfiguration.
The Reverend Septimus yielded himself up quite as willing a victim
to a nauseous medicinal herb-closet, also presided over by the
china shepherdess, as to this glorious cupboard. To what amazing
infusions of gentian, peppermint, gilliflower, sage, parsley,
thyme, rue, rosemary, and dandelion, did his courageous stomach
submit itself! In what wonderful wrappers, enclosing layers of
dried leaves, would he swathe his rosy and contented face, if his
mother suspected him of a toothache! What botanical blotches would
he cheerfully stick upon his cheek, or forehead, if the dear old
lady convicted him of an imperceptible pimple there! Into this
herbaceous penitentiary, situated on an upper staircase-landing: a
low and narrow whitewashed cell, where bunches of dried leaves hung
from rusty hooks in the ceiling, and were spread out upon shelves,
in company with portentous bottles: would the Reverend Septimus
submissively be led, like the highly popular lamb who has so long
and unresistingly been led to the slaughter, and there would he,
unlike that lamb, bore nobody but himself. Not even doing that
much, so that the old lady were busy and pleased, he would quietly
swallow what was given him, merely taking a corrective dip of hands
and face into the great bowl of dried rose-leaves, and into the
other great bowl of dried lavender, and then would go out, as
confident in the sweetening powers of Cloisterham Weir and a
wholesome mind, as Lady Macbeth was hopeless of those of all the
seas that roll.
In the present instance the good Minor Canon took his glass of
Constantia with an excellent grace, and, so supported to his
mother's satisfaction, applied himself to the remaining duties of
the day. In their orderly and punctual progress they brought round
Vesper Service and twilight. The Cathedral being very cold, he set
off for a brisk trot after service; the trot to end in a charge at
his favourite fragment of ruin, which was to be carried by storm,
without a pause for breath.
He carried it in a masterly manner, and, not breathed even then,
stood looking down upon the river. The river at Cloisterham is
sufficiently near the sea to throw up oftentimes a quantity of
seaweed. An unusual quantity had come in with the last tide, and
this, and the confusion of the water, and the restless dipping and
flapping of the noisy gulls, and an angry light out seaward beyond
the brown-sailed barges that were turning black, foreshadowed a
stormy night. In his mind he was contrasting the wild and noisy
sea with the quiet harbour of Minor Canon Corner, when Helena and
Neville Landless passed below him. He had had the two together in
his thoughts all day, and at once climbed down to speak to them
together. The footing was rough in an uncertain light for any
tread save that of a good climber; but the Minor Canon was as good
a climber as most men, and stood beside them before many good
climbers would have been half-way down.
'A wild evening, Miss Landless! Do you not find your usual walk
with your brother too exposed and cold for the time of year? Or at
all events, when the sun is down, and the weather is driving in
from the sea?'
Helena thought not. It was their favourite walk. It was very
'It is very retired,' assented Mr. Crisparkle, laying hold of his
opportunity straightway, and walking on with them. 'It is a place
of all others where one can speak without interruption, as I wish
to do. Mr. Neville, I believe you tell your sister everything that
passes between us?'
'Consequently,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'your sister is aware that I
have repeatedly urged you to make some kind of apology for that
unfortunate occurrence which befell on the night of your arrival
here.' In saying it he looked to her, and not to him; therefore it
was she, and not he, who replied:
'I call it unfortunate, Miss Helena,' resumed Mr. Crisparkle,
'forasmuch as it certainly has engendered a prejudice against
Neville. There is a notion about, that he is a dangerously
passionate fellow, of an uncontrollable and furious temper: he is
really avoided as such.'
'I have no doubt he is, poor fellow,' said Helena, with a look of
proud compassion at her brother, expressing a deep sense of his
being ungenerously treated. 'I should be quite sure of it, from
your saying so; but what you tell me is confirmed by suppressed
hints and references that I meet with every day.'
'Now,' Mr. Crisparkle again resumed, in a tone of mild though firm
persuasion, 'is not this to be regretted, and ought it not to be
amended? These are early days of Neville's in Cloisterham, and I
have no fear of his outliving such a prejudice, and proving himself
to have been misunderstood. But how much wiser to take action at
once, than to trust to uncertain time! Besides, apart from its
being politic, it is right. For there can be no question that
Neville was wrong.'
'He was provoked,' Helena submitted.
'He was the assailant,' Mr. Crisparkle submitted.
They walked on in silence, until Helena raised her eyes to the
Minor Canon's face, and said, almost reproachfully: 'O Mr.
Crisparkle, would you have Neville throw himself at young Drood's
feet, or at Mr. Jasper's, who maligns him every day? In your heart
you cannot mean it. From your heart you could not do it, if his
case were yours.'
'I have represented to Mr. Crisparkle, Helena,' said Neville, with
a glance of deference towards his tutor, 'that if I could do it
from my heart, I would. But I cannot, and I revolt from the
pretence. You forget however, that to put the case to Mr.
Crisparkle as his own, is to suppose to have done what I did.'
'I ask his pardon,' said Helena.
'You see,' remarked Mr. Crisparkle, again laying hold of his
opportunity, though with a moderate and delicate touch, 'you both
instinctively acknowledge that Neville did wrong. Then why stop
short, and not otherwise acknowledge it?'
'Is there no difference,' asked Helena, with a little faltering in
her manner; 'between submission to a generous spirit, and
submission to a base or trivial one?'
Before the worthy Minor Canon was quite ready with his argument in
reference to this nice distinction, Neville struck in:
'Help me to clear myself with Mr. Crisparkle, Helena. Help me to
convince him that I cannot be the first to make concessions without
mockery and falsehood. My nature must be changed before I can do
so, and it is not changed. I am sensible of inexpressible affront,
and deliberate aggravation of inexpressible affront, and I am
angry. The plain truth is, I am still as angry when I recall that
night as I was that night.'
'Neville,' hinted the Minor Canon, with a steady countenance, 'you
have repeated that former action of your hands, which I so much
'I am sorry for it, sir, but it was involuntary. I confessed that
I was still as angry.'
'And I confess,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'that I hoped for better
'I am sorry to disappoint you, sir, but it would be far worse to
deceive you, and I should deceive you grossly if I pretended that
you had softened me in this respect. The time may come when your
powerful influence will do even that with the difficult pupil whose
antecedents you know; but it has not come yet. Is this so, and in
spite of my struggles against myself, Helena?'
She, whose dark eyes were watching the effect of what he said on
Mr. Crisparkle's face, replied--to Mr. Crisparkle, not to him: 'It
is so.' After a short pause, she answered the slightest look of
inquiry conceivable, in her brother's eyes, with as slight an
affirmative bend of her own head; and he went on:
'I have never yet had the courage to say to you, sir, what in full
openness I ought to have said when you first talked with me on this
subject. It is not easy to say, and I have been withheld by a fear
of its seeming ridiculous, which is very strong upon me down to
this last moment, and might, but for my sister, prevent my being
quite open with you even now.--I admire Miss Bud, sir, so very
much, that I cannot bear her being treated with conceit or
indifference; and even if I did not feel that I had an injury
against young Drood on my own account, I should feel that I had an
injury against him on hers.'
Mr. Crisparkle, in utter amazement, looked at Helena for
corroboration, and met in her expressive face full corroboration,
and a plea for advice.
'The young lady of whom you speak is, as you know, Mr. Neville,
shortly to be married,' said Mr. Crisparkle, gravely; 'therefore
your admiration, if it be of that special nature which you seem to
indicate, is outrageously misplaced. Moreover, it is monstrous
that you should take upon yourself to be the young lady's champion
against her chosen husband. Besides, you have seen them only once.
The young lady has become your sister's friend; and I wonder that
your sister, even on her behalf, has not checked you in this
irrational and culpable fancy.'
'She has tried, sir, but uselessly. Husband or no husband, that
fellow is incapable of the feeling with which I am inspired towards
the beautiful young creature whom he treats like a doll. I say he
is as incapable of it, as he is unworthy of her. I say she is
sacrificed in being bestowed upon him. I say that I love her, and
despise and hate him!' This with a face so flushed, and a gesture
so violent, that his sister crossed to his side, and caught his
arm, remonstrating, 'Neville, Neville!'
Thus recalled to himself, he quickly became sensible of having lost
the guard he had set upon his passionate tendency, and covered his
face with his hand, as one repentant and wretched.
Mr. Crisparkle, watching him attentively, and at the same time
meditating how to proceed, walked on for some paces in silence.
Then he spoke:
'Mr. Neville, Mr. Neville, I am sorely grieved to see in you more
traces of a character as sullen, angry, and wild, as the night now
closing in. They are of too serious an aspect to leave me the
resource of treating the infatuation you have disclosed, as
undeserving serious consideration. I give it very serious
consideration, and I speak to you accordingly. This feud between
you and young Drood must not go on. I cannot permit it to go on
any longer, knowing what I now know from you, and you living under
my roof. Whatever prejudiced and unauthorised constructions your
blind and envious wrath may put upon his character, it is a frank,
good-natured character. I know I can trust to it for that. Now,
pray observe what I am about to say. On reflection, and on your
sister's representation, I am willing to admit that, in making
peace with young Drood, you have a right to be met half-way. I
will engage that you shall be, and even that young Drood shall make
the first advance. This condition fulfilled, you will pledge me
the honour of a Christian gentleman that the quarrel is for ever at
an end on your side. What may be in your heart when you give him
your hand, can only be known to the Searcher of all hearts; but it
will never go well with you, if there be any treachery there. So
far, as to that; next as to what I must again speak of as your
infatuation. I understand it to have been confided to me, and to
be known to no other person save your sister and yourself. Do I
Helena answered in a low voice: 'It is only known to us three who
are here together.'
'It is not at all known to the young lady, your friend?'
'On my soul, no!'
'I require you, then, to give me your similar and solemn pledge,
Mr. Neville, that it shall remain the secret it is, and that you
will take no other action whatsoever upon it than endeavouring (and
that most earnestly) to erase it from your mind. I will not tell
you that it will soon pass; I will not tell you that it is the
fancy of the moment; I will not tell you that such caprices have
their rise and fall among the young and ardent every hour; I will
leave you undisturbed in the belief that it has few parallels or
none, that it will abide with you a long time, and that it will be
very difficult to conquer. So much the more weight shall I attach
to the pledge I require from you, when it is unreservedly given.'
The young man twice or thrice essayed to speak, but failed.
'Let me leave you with your sister, whom it is time you took home,'
said Mr. Crisparkle. 'You will find me alone in my room by-and-
'Pray do not leave us yet,' Helena implored him. 'Another minute.'
'I should not,' said Neville, pressing his hand upon his face,
'have needed so much as another minute, if you had been less
patient with me, Mr. Crisparkle, less considerate of me, and less
unpretendingly good and true. O, if in my childhood I had known
such a guide!'
'Follow your guide now, Neville,' murmured Helena, 'and follow him
There was that in her tone which broke the good Minor Canon's
voice, or it would have repudiated her exaltation of him. As it
was, he laid a finger on his lips, and looked towards her brother.
'To say that I give both pledges, Mr. Crisparkle, out of my
innermost heart, and to say that there is no treachery in it, is to
say nothing!' Thus Neville, greatly moved. 'I beg your
forgiveness for my miserable lapse into a burst of passion.'
'Not mine, Neville, not mine. You know with whom forgiveness lies,
as the highest attribute conceivable. Miss Helena, you and your
brother are twin children. You came into this world with the same
dispositions, and you passed your younger days together surrounded
by the same adverse circumstances. What you have overcome in
yourself, can you not overcome in him? You see the rock that lies
in his course. Who but you can keep him clear of it?'
'Who but you, sir?' replied Helena. 'What is my influence, or my
weak wisdom, compared with yours!'
'You have the wisdom of Love,' returned the Minor Canon, 'and it
was the highest wisdom ever known upon this earth, remember. As to
mine--but the less said of that commonplace commodity the better.
She took the hand he offered her, and gratefully and almost
reverently raised it to her lips.
'Tut!' said the Minor Canon softly, 'I am much overpaid!' and
Retracing his steps towards the Cathedral Close, he tried, as he
went along in the dark, to think out the best means of bringing to
pass what he had promised to effect, and what must somehow be done.
'I shall probably be asked to marry them,' he reflected, 'and I
would they were married and gone! But this presses first.'
He debated principally whether he should write to young Drood, or
whether he should speak to Jasper. The consciousness of being
popular with the whole Cathedral establishment inclined him to the
latter course, and the well-timed sight of the lighted gatehouse
decided him to take it. 'I will strike while the iron is hot,' he
said, 'and see him now.'
Jasper was lying asleep on a couch before the fire, when, having
ascended the postern-stair, and received no answer to his knock at
the door, Mr. Crisparkle gently turned the handle and looked in.
Long afterwards he had cause to remember how Jasper sprang from the
couch in a delirious state between sleeping and waking, and crying
out: 'What is the matter? Who did it?'
'It is only I, Jasper. I am sorry to have disturbed you.'
The glare of his eyes settled down into a look of recognition, and
he moved a chair or two, to make a way to the fireside.
'I was dreaming at a great rate, and am glad to be disturbed from
an indigestive after-dinner sleep. Not to mention that you are
'Thank you. I am not confident,' returned Mr. Crisparkle, as he
sat himself down in the easy-chair placed for him, 'that my subject
will at first sight be quite as welcome as myself; but I am a
minister of peace, and I pursue my subject in the interests of
peace. In a word, Jasper, I want to establish peace between these
two young fellows.'
A very perplexed expression took hold of Mr. Jasper's face; a very
perplexing expression too, for Mr. Crisparkle could make nothing of
'How?' was Jasper's inquiry, in a low and slow voice, after a
'For the "How" I come to you. I want to ask you to do me the great
favour and service of interposing with your nephew (I have already
interposed with Mr. Neville), and getting him to write you a short
note, in his lively way, saying that he is willing to shake hands.
I know what a good-natured fellow he is, and what influence you
have with him. And without in the least defending Mr. Neville, we
must all admit that he was bitterly stung.'
Jasper turned that perplexed face towards the fire. Mr. Crisparkle
continuing to observe it, found it even more perplexing than
before, inasmuch as it seemed to denote (which could hardly be)
some close internal calculation.
'I know that you are not prepossessed in Mr. Neville's favour,' the
Minor Canon was going on, when Jasper stopped him:
'You have cause to say so. I am not, indeed.'
'Undoubtedly; and I admit his lamentable violence of temper, though
I hope he and I will get the better of it between us. But I have
exacted a very solemn promise from him as to his future demeanour
towards your nephew, if you do kindly interpose; and I am sure he
will keep it.'
'You are always responsible and trustworthy, Mr. Crisparkle. Do
you really feel sure that you can answer for him so confidently?'
The perplexed and perplexing look vanished.
'Then you relieve my mind of a great dread, and a heavy weight,'
said Jasper; 'I will do it.'
Mr. Crisparkle, delighted by the swiftness and completeness of his
success, acknowledged it in the handsomest terms.
'I will do it,' repeated Jasper, 'for the comfort of having your
guarantee against my vague and unfounded fears. You will laugh--
but do you keep a Diary?'
'A line for a day; not more.'
'A line for a day would be quite as much as my uneventful life
would need, Heaven knows,' said Jasper, taking a book from a desk,
'but that my Diary is, in fact, a Diary of Ned's life too. You
will laugh at this entry; you will guess when it was made:
'"Past midnight.--After what I have just now seen, I have a morbid
dread upon me of some horrible consequences resulting to my dear
boy, that I cannot reason with or in any way contend against. All
my efforts are vain. The demoniacal passion of this Neville
Landless, his strength in his fury, and his savage rage for the
destruction of its object, appal me. So profound is the
impression, that twice since I have gone into my dear boy's room,
to assure myself of his sleeping safely, and not lying dead in his
'Here is another entry next morning:
'"Ned up and away. Light-hearted and unsuspicious as ever. He
laughed when I cautioned him, and said he was as good a man as
Neville Landless any day. I told him that might be, but he was not
as bad a man. He continued to make light of it, but I travelled
with him as far as I could, and left him most unwillingly. I am
unable to shake off these dark intangible presentiments of evil--if
feelings founded upon staring facts are to be so called."
'Again and again,' said Jasper, in conclusion, twirling the leaves
of the book before putting it by, 'I have relapsed into these
moods, as other entries show. But I have now your assurance at my
back, and shall put it in my book, and make it an antidote to my
'Such an antidote, I hope,' returned Mr. Crisparkle, 'as will
induce you before long to consign the black humours to the flames.
I ought to be the last to find any fault with you this evening,
when you have met my wishes so freely; but I must say, Jasper, that
your devotion to your nephew has made you exaggerative here.'
'You are my witness,' said Jasper, shrugging his shoulders, 'what
my state of mind honestly was, that night, before I sat down to
write, and in what words I expressed it. You remember objecting to
a word I used, as being too strong? It was a stronger word than
any in my Diary.'
'Well, well. Try the antidote,' rejoined Mr. Crisparkle; 'and may
it give you a brighter and better view of the case! We will
discuss it no more now. I have to thank you for myself, thank you
'You shall find,' said Jasper, as they shook hands, 'that I will
not do the thing you wish me to do, by halves. I will take care
that Ned, giving way at all, shall give way thoroughly.'
On the third day after this conversation, he called on Mr.
Crisparkle with the following letter:
'MY DEAR JACK,
'I am touched by your account of your interview with Mr.
Crisparkle, whom I much respect and esteem. At once I openly say
that I forgot myself on that occasion quite as much as Mr. Landless
did, and that I wish that bygone to be a bygone, and all to be
'Look here, dear old boy. Ask Mr. Landless to dinner on Christmas
Eve (the better the day the better the deed), and let there be only
we three, and let us shake hands all round there and then, and say
no more about it.
'My dear Jack,
'Ever your most affectionate,
'P.S. Love to Miss Pussy at the next music-lesson.'
'You expect Mr. Neville, then?' said Mr. Crisparkle.
'I count upon his coming,' said Mr. Jasper.
CHAPTER XI--A PICTURE AND A RING
Behind the most ancient part of Holborn, London, where certain
gabled houses some centuries of age still stand looking on the
public way, as if disconsolately looking for the Old Bourne that
has long run dry, is a little nook composed of two irregular
quadrangles, called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the
turning into which out of the clashing street, imparts to the
relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears,
and velvet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks where a
few smoky sparrows twitter in smoky trees, as though they called to
one another, 'Let us play at country,' and where a few feet of
garden-mould and a few yards of gravel enable them to do that
refreshing violence to their tiny understandings. Moreover, it is
one of those nooks which are legal nooks; and it contains a little
Hall, with a little lantern in its roof: to what obstructive
purposes devoted, and at whose expense, this history knoweth not.
In the days when Cloisterham took offence at the existence of a
railroad afar off, as menacing that sensitive constitution, the
property of us Britons: the odd fortune of which sacred
institution it is to be in exactly equal degrees croaked about,
trembled for, and boasted of, whatever happens to anything,
anywhere in the world: in those days no neighbouring architecture
of lofty proportions had arisen to overshadow Staple Inn. The
westering sun bestowed bright glances on it, and the south-west
wind blew into it unimpeded.
Neither wind nor sun, however, favoured Staple Inn one December
afternoon towards six o'clock, when it was filled with fog, and
candles shed murky and blurred rays through the windows of all its
then-occupied sets of chambers; notably from a set of chambers in a
corner house in the little inner quadrangle, presenting in black
and white over its ugly portal the mysterious inscription:
In which set of chambers, never having troubled his head about the
inscription, unless to bethink himself at odd times on glancing up
at it, that haply it might mean Perhaps John Thomas, or Perhaps Joe
Tyler, sat Mr. Grewgious writing by his fire.
Who could have told, by looking at Mr. Grewgious, whether he had
ever known ambition or disappointment? He had been bred to the
Bar, and had laid himself out for chamber practice; to draw deeds;
'convey the wise it call,' as Pistol says. But Conveyancing and he
had made such a very indifferent marriage of it that they had
separated by consent--if there can be said to be separation where
there has never been coming together.
No. Coy Conveyancing would not come to Mr. Grewgious. She was
wooed, not won, and they went their several ways. But an
Arbitration being blown towards him by some unaccountable wind, and
he gaining great credit in it as one indefatigable in seeking out
right and doing right, a pretty fat Receivership was next blown
into his pocket by a wind more traceable to its source. So, by
chance, he had found his niche. Receiver and Agent now, to two
rich estates, and deputing their legal business, in an amount worth
having, to a firm of solicitors on the floor below, he had snuffed
out his ambition (supposing him to have ever lighted it), and had
settled down with his snuffers for the rest of his life under the
dry vine and fig-tree of P. J. T., who planted in seventeen-forty-
Many accounts and account-books, many files of correspondence, and
several strong boxes, garnished Mr. Grewgious's room. They can
scarcely be represented as having lumbered it, so conscientious and
precise was their orderly arrangement. The apprehension of dying
suddenly, and leaving one fact or one figure with any
incompleteness or obscurity attaching to it, would have stretched
Mr. Grewgious stone-dead any day. The largest fidelity to a trust
was the life-blood of the man. There are sorts of life-blood that
course more quickly, more gaily, more attractively; but there is no
better sort in circulation.
There was no luxury in his room. Even its comforts were limited to
its being dry and warm, and having a snug though faded fireside.
What may be called its private life was confined to the hearth, and
all easy-chair, and an old-fashioned occasional round table that
was brought out upon the rug after business hours, from a corner
where it elsewise remained turned up like a shining mahogany
shield. Behind it, when standing thus on the defensive, was a
closet, usually containing something good to drink. An outer room
was the clerk's room; Mr. Grewgious's sleeping-room was across the
common stair; and he held some not empty cellarage at the bottom of
the common stair. Three hundred days in the year, at least, he
crossed over to the hotel in Furnival's Inn for his dinner, and
after dinner crossed back again, to make the most of these
simplicities until it should become broad business day once more,
with P. J. T., date seventeen-forty-seven.
As Mr. Grewgious sat and wrote by his fire that afternoon, so did
the clerk of Mr. Grewgious sit and write by HIS fire. A pale,
puffy-faced, dark-haired person of thirty, with big dark eyes that
wholly wanted lustre, and a dissatisfied doughy complexion, that
seemed to ask to be sent to the baker's, this attendant was a
mysterious being, possessed of some strange power over Mr.
Grewgious. As though he had been called into existence, like a
fabulous Familiar, by a magic spell which had failed when required
to dismiss him, he stuck tight to Mr. Grewgious's stool, although
Mr. Grewgious's comfort and convenience would manifestly have been
advanced by dispossessing him. A gloomy person with tangled locks,
and a general air of having been reared under the shadow of that
baleful tree of Java which has given shelter to more lies than the
whole botanical kingdom, Mr. Grewgious, nevertheless, treated him
with unaccountable consideration.
'Now, Bazzard,' said Mr. Grewgious, on the entrance of his clerk:
looking up from his papers as he arranged them for the night:
'what is in the wind besides fog?'
'Mr. Drood,' said Bazzard.
'What of him?'
'Has called,' said Bazzard.
'You might have shown him in.'
'I am doing it,' said Bazzard.
The visitor came in accordingly.
'Dear me!' said Mr. Grewgious, looking round his pair of office
candles. 'I thought you had called and merely left your name and
gone. How do you do, Mr. Edwin? Dear me, you're choking!'
'It's this fog,' returned Edwin; 'and it makes my eyes smart, like
'Is it really so bad as that? Pray undo your wrappers. It's
fortunate I have so good a fire; but Mr. Bazzard has taken care of
'No I haven't,' said Mr. Bazzard at the door.
'Ah! then it follows that I must have taken care of myself without
observing it,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'Pray be seated in my chair.
No. I beg! Coming out of such an atmosphere, in MY chair.'
Edwin took the easy-chair in the corner; and the fog he had brought
in with him, and the fog he took off with his greatcoat and neck-
shawl, was speedily licked up by the eager fire.
'I look,' said Edwin, smiling, 'as if I had come to stop.'
'--By the by,' cried Mr. Grewgious; 'excuse my interrupting you; do
stop. The fog may clear in an hour or two. We can have dinner in
from just across Holborn. You had better take your Cayenne pepper
here than outside; pray stop and dine.'
'You are very kind,' said Edwin, glancing about him as though
attracted by the notion of a new and relishing sort of gipsy-party.
'Not at all,' said Mr. Grewgious; 'YOU are very kind to join issue
with a bachelor in chambers, and take pot-luck. And I'll ask,'
said Mr. Grewgious, dropping his voice, and speaking with a
twinkling eye, as if inspired with a bright thought: 'I'll ask
Bazzard. He mightn't like it else.--Bazzard!'
'Dine presently with Mr. Drood and me.'
'If I am ordered to dine, of course I will, sir,' was the gloomy
'Save the man!' cried Mr. Grewgious. 'You're not ordered; you're
'Thank you, sir,' said Bazzard; 'in that case I don't care if I
'That's arranged. And perhaps you wouldn't mind,' said Mr.
Grewgious, 'stepping over to the hotel in Furnival's, and asking
them to send in materials for laying the cloth. For dinner we'll
have a tureen of the hottest and strongest soup available, and
we'll have the best made-dish that can be recommended, and we'll
have a joint (such as a haunch of mutton), and we'll have a goose,
or a turkey, or any little stuffed thing of that sort that may
happen to be in the bill of fare--in short, we'll have whatever
there is on hand.'
These liberal directions Mr. Grewgious issued with his usual air of
reading an inventory, or repeating a lesson, or doing anything else
by rote. Bazzard, after drawing out the round table, withdrew to
'I was a little delicate, you see,' said Mr. Grewgious, in a lower
tone, after his clerk's departure, 'about employing him in the
foraging or commissariat department. Because he mightn't like it.'
'He seems to have his own way, sir,' remarked Edwin.
'His own way?' returned Mr. Grewgious. 'O dear no! Poor fellow,
you quite mistake him. If he had his own way, he wouldn't be
'I wonder where he would be!' Edwin thought. But he only thought
it, because Mr. Grewgious came and stood himself with his back to
the other corner of the fire, and his shoulder-blades against the
chimneypiece, and collected his skirts for easy conversation.
'I take it, without having the gift of prophecy, that you have done
me the favour of looking in to mention that you are going down
yonder--where I can tell you, you are expected--and to offer to
execute any little commission from me to my charming ward, and
perhaps to sharpen me up a bit in any proceedings? Eh, Mr. Edwin?'
'I called, sir, before going down, as an act of attention.'
'Of attention!' said Mr. Grewgious. 'Ah! of course, not of
Mr. Grewgious had meant to be arch--not that he in the remotest
degree expressed that meaning--and had brought himself into
scarcely supportable proximity with the fire, as if to burn the
fullest effect of his archness into himself, as other subtle
impressions are burnt into hard metals. But his archness suddenly
flying before the composed face and manner of his visitor, and only
the fire remaining, he started and rubbed himself.
'I have lately been down yonder,' said Mr. Grewgious, rearranging
his skirts; 'and that was what I referred to, when I said I could
tell you you are expected.'
'Indeed, sir! Yes; I knew that Pussy was looking out for me.'
'Do you keep a cat down there?' asked Mr. Grewgious.
Edwin coloured a little as he explained: 'I call Rosa Pussy.'
'O, really,' said Mr. Grewgious, smoothing down his head; 'that's
Edwin glanced at his face, uncertain whether or no he seriously
objected to the appellation. But Edwin might as well have glanced
at the face of a clock.
'A pet name, sir,' he explained again.
'Umps,' said Mr. Grewgious, with a nod. But with such an
extraordinary compromise between an unqualified assent and a
qualified dissent, that his visitor was much disconcerted.
'Did PRosa--' Edwin began by way of recovering himself.
'PRosa?' repeated Mr. Grewgious.
'I was going to say Pussy, and changed my mind;--did she tell you
anything about the Landlesses?'
'No,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'What is the Landlesses? An estate? A
villa? A farm?'
'A brother and sister. The sister is at the Nuns' House, and has
become a great friend of P--'
'PRosa's,' Mr. Grewgious struck in, with a fixed face.
'She is a strikingly handsome girl, sir, and I thought she might
have been described to you, or presented to you perhaps?'
'Neither,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'But here is Bazzard.'
Bazzard returned, accompanied by two waiters--an immovable waiter,
and a flying waiter; and the three brought in with them as much fog
as gave a new roar to the fire. The flying waiter, who had brought
everything on his shoulders, laid the cloth with amazing rapidity
and dexterity; while the immovable waiter, who had brought nothing,
found fault with him. The flying waiter then highly polished all
the glasses he had brought, and the immovable waiter looked through
them. The flying waiter then flew across Holborn for the soup, and
flew back again, and then took another flight for the made-dish,
and flew back again, and then took another flight for the joint and
poultry, and flew back again, and between whiles took supplementary
flights for a great variety of articles, as it was discovered from
time to time that the immovable waiter had forgotten them all. But
let the flying waiter cleave the air as he might, he was always
reproached on his return by the immovable waiter for bringing fog
with him, and being out of breath. At the conclusion of the
repast, by which time the flying waiter was severely blown, the
immovable waiter gathered up the tablecloth under his arm with a
grand air, and having sternly (not to say with indignation) looked
on at the flying waiter while he set the clean glasses round,
directed a valedictory glance towards Mr. Grewgious, conveying:
'Let it be clearly understood between us that the reward is mine,
and that Nil is the claim of this slave,' and pushed the flying
waiter before him out of the room.
It was like a highly-finished miniature painting representing My
Lords of the Circumlocution Department, Commandership-in-Chief of
any sort, Government. It was quite an edifying little picture to
be hung on the line in the National Gallery.
As the fog had been the proximate cause of this sumptuous repast,
so the fog served for its general sauce. To hear the out-door
clerks sneezing, wheezing, and beating their feet on the gravel was
a zest far surpassing Doctor Kitchener's. To bid, with a shiver,
the unfortunate flying waiter shut the door before he had opened
it, was a condiment of a profounder flavour than Harvey. And here
let it be noticed, parenthetically, that the leg of this young man,
in its application to the door, evinced the finest sense of touch:
always preceding himself and tray (with something of an angling air
about it), by some seconds: and always lingering after he and the
tray had disappeared, like Macbeth's leg when accompanying him off
the stage with reluctance to the assassination of Duncan.
The host had gone below to the cellar, and had brought up bottles
of ruby, straw-coloured, and golden drinks, which had ripened long
ago in lands where no fogs are, and had since lain slumbering in
the shade. Sparkling and tingling after so long a nap, they pushed
at their corks to help the corkscrew (like prisoners helping
rioters to force their gates), and danced out gaily. If P. J. T.
in seventeen-forty-seven, or in any other year of his period, drank
such wines--then, for a certainty, P. J. T. was Pretty Jolly Too.
Externally, Mr. Grewgious showed no signs of being mellowed by
these glowing vintages. Instead of his drinking them, they might
have been poured over him in his high-dried snuff form, and run to
waste, for any lights and shades they caused to flicker over his
face. Neither was his manner influenced. But, in his wooden way,
he had observant eyes for Edwin; and when at the end of dinner, he
motioned Edwin back to his own easy-chair in the fireside corner,
and Edwin sank luxuriously into it after very brief remonstrance,
Mr. Grewgious, as he turned his seat round towards the fire too,
and smoothed his head and face, might have been seen looking at his
visitor between his smoothing fingers.
'Bazzard!' said Mr. Grewgious, suddenly turning to him.
'I follow you, sir,' returned Bazzard; who had done his work of
consuming meat and drink in a workmanlike manner, though mostly in
'I drink to you, Bazzard; Mr. Edwin, success to Mr. Bazzard!'
'Success to Mr. Bazzard!' echoed Edwin, with a totally unfounded
appearance of enthusiasm, and with the unspoken addition: 'What
in, I wonder!'
'And May!' pursued Mr. Grewgious--'I am not at liberty to be
definite--May!--my conversational powers are so very limited that I
know I shall not come well out of this--May!--it ought to be put
imaginatively, but I have no imagination--May!--the thorn of
anxiety is as nearly the mark as I am likely to get--May it come
out at last!'
Mr. Bazzard, with a frowning smile at the fire, put a hand into his
tangled locks, as if the thorn of anxiety were there; then into his
waistcoat, as if it were there; then into his pockets, as if it
were there. In all these movements he was closely followed by the
eyes of Edwin, as if that young gentleman expected to see the thorn
in action. It was not produced, however, and Mr. Bazzard merely
said: 'I follow you, sir, and I thank you.'
'I am going,' said Mr. Grewgious, jingling his glass on the table
with one hand, and bending aside under cover of the other, to
whisper to Edwin, 'to drink to my ward. But I put Bazzard first.
He mightn't like it else.'
This was said with a mysterious wink; or what would have been a
wink, if, in Mr. Grewgious's hands, it could have been quick
enough. So Edwin winked responsively, without the least idea what
he meant by doing so.
'And now,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'I devote a bumper to the fair and
fascinating Miss Rosa. Bazzard, the fair and fascinating Miss
'I follow you, sir,' said Bazzard, 'and I pledge you!'
'And so do I!' said Edwin.
'Lord bless me,' cried Mr. Grewgious, breaking the blank silence
which of course ensued: though why these pauses SHOULD come upon
us when we have performed any small social rite, not directly
inducive of self-examination or mental despondency, who can tell?
'I am a particularly Angular man, and yet I fancy (if I may use the
word, not having a morsel of fancy), that I could draw a picture of
a true lover's state of mind, to-night.'
'Let us follow you, sir,' said Bazzard, 'and have the picture.'
'Mr. Edwin will correct it where it's wrong,' resumed Mr.
Grewgious, 'and will throw in a few touches from the life. I dare
say it is wrong in many particulars, and wants many touches from
the life, for I was born a Chip, and have neither soft sympathies
nor soft experiences. Well! I hazard the guess that the true
lover's mind is completely permeated by the beloved object of his
affections. I hazard the guess that her dear name is precious to
him, cannot be heard or repeated without emotion, and is preserved
sacred. If he has any distinguishing appellation of fondness for
her, it is reserved for her, and is not for common ears. A name
that it would be a privilege to call her by, being alone with her
own bright self, it would be a liberty, a coldness, an
insensibility, almost a breach of good faith, to flaunt elsewhere.'
It was wonderful to see Mr. Grewgious sitting bolt upright, with
his hands on his knees, continuously chopping this discourse out of
himself: much as a charity boy with a very good memory might get
his catechism said: and evincing no correspondent emotion
whatever, unless in a certain occasional little tingling
perceptible at the end of his nose.
'My picture,' Mr. Grewgious proceeded, 'goes on to represent (under
correction from you, Mr. Edwin), the true lover as ever impatient
to be in the presence or vicinity of the beloved object of his
affections; as caring very little for his case in any other
society; and as constantly seeking that. If I was to say seeking
that, as a bird seeks its nest, I should make an ass of myself,
because that would trench upon what I understand to be poetry; and
I am so far from trenching upon poetry at any time, that I never,
to my knowledge, got within ten thousand miles of it. And I am
besides totally unacquainted with the habits of birds, except the
birds of Staple Inn, who seek their nests on ledges, and in gutter-
pipes and chimneypots, not constructed for them by the beneficent
hand of Nature. I beg, therefore, to be understood as foregoing
the bird's-nest. But my picture does represent the true lover as
having no existence separable from that of the beloved object of
his affections, and as living at once a doubled life and a halved
life. And if I do not clearly express what I mean by that, it is
either for the reason that having no conversational powers, I
cannot express what I mean, or that having no meaning, I do not
mean what I fail to express. Which, to the best of my belief, is
not the case.'
Edwin had turned red and turned white, as certain points of this
picture came into the light. He now sat looking at the fire, and
bit his lip.
'The speculations of an Angular man,' resumed Mr. Grewgious, still
sitting and speaking exactly as before, 'are probably erroneous on
so globular a topic. But I figure to myself (subject, as before,
to Mr. Edwin's correction), that there can be no coolness, no
lassitude, no doubt, no indifference, no half fire and half smoke
state of mind, in a real lover. Pray am I at all near the mark in
As abrupt in his conclusion as in his commencement and progress, he
jerked this inquiry at Edwin, and stopped when one might have
supposed him in the middle of his oration.
'I should say, sir,' stammered Edwin, 'as you refer the question to
'Yes,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'I refer it to you, as an authority.'
'I should say, then, sir,' Edwin went on, embarrassed, 'that the
picture you have drawn is generally correct; but I submit that
perhaps you may be rather hard upon the unlucky lover.'
'Likely so,' assented Mr. Grewgious, 'likely so. I am a hard man
in the grain.'
'He may not show,' said Edwin, 'all he feels; or he may not--'
There he stopped so long, to find the rest of his sentence, that
Mr. Grewgious rendered his difficulty a thousand times the greater
by unexpectedly striking in with:
'No to be sure; he MAY not!'
After that, they all sat silent; the silence of Mr. Bazzard being
occasioned by slumber.
'His responsibility is very great, though,' said Mr. Grewgious at
length, with his eyes on the fire.
Edwin nodded assent, with HIS eyes on the fire.
'And let him be sure that he trifles with no one,' said Mr.
Grewgious; 'neither with himself, nor with any other.'
Edwin bit his lip again, and still sat looking at the fire.
'He must not make a plaything of a treasure. Woe betide him if he
does! Let him take that well to heart,' said Mr. Grewgious.
Though he said these things in short sentences, much as the
supposititious charity boy just now referred to might have repeated
a verse or two from the Book of Proverbs, there was something
dreamy (for so literal a man) in the way in which he now shook his
right forefinger at the live coals in the grate, and again fell
But not for long. As he sat upright and stiff in his chair, he
suddenly rapped his knees, like the carved image of some queer Joss
or other coming out of its reverie, and said: 'We must finish this
bottle, Mr. Edwin. Let me help you. I'll help Bazzard too, though
he IS asleep. He mightn't like it else.'
He helped them both, and helped himself, and drained his glass, and
stood it bottom upward on the table, as though he had just caught a
bluebottle in it.
'And now, Mr. Edwin,' he proceeded, wiping his mouth and hands upon
his handkerchief: 'to a little piece of business. You received
from me, the other day, a certified copy of Miss Rosa's father's
will. You knew its contents before, but you received it from me as
a matter of business. I should have sent it to Mr. Jasper, but for
Miss Rosa's wishing it to come straight to you, in preference. You
'Quite safely, sir.'
'You should have acknowledged its receipt,' said Mr. Grewgious;
'business being business all the world over. However, you did
'I meant to have acknowledged it when I first came in this evening,
'Not a business-like acknowledgment,' returned Mr. Grewgious;
'however, let that pass. Now, in that document you have observed a
few words of kindly allusion to its being left to me to discharge a
little trust, confided to me in conversation, at such time as I in
my discretion may think best.'
'Mr. Edwin, it came into my mind just now, when I was looking at
the fire, that I could, in my discretion, acquit myself of that
trust at no better time than the present. Favour me with your
attention, half a minute.'
He took a bunch of keys from his pocket, singled out by the candle-
light the key he wanted, and then, with a candle in his hand, went
to a bureau or escritoire, unlocked it, touched the spring of a
little secret drawer, and took from it an ordinary ring-case made
for a single ring. With this in his hand, he returned to his
chair. As he held it up for the young man to see, his hand
'Mr. Edwin, this rose of diamonds and rubies delicately set in
gold, was a ring belonging to Miss Rosa's mother. It was removed
from her dead hand, in my presence, with such distracted grief as I
hope it may never be my lot to contemplate again. Hard man as I
am, I am not hard enough for that. See how bright these stones
shine!' opening the case. 'And yet the eyes that were so much
brighter, and that so often looked upon them with a light and a
proud heart, have been ashes among ashes, and dust among dust, some
years! If I had any imagination (which it is needless to say I
have not), I might imagine that the lasting beauty of these stones
was almost cruel.'
He closed the case again as he spoke.
'This ring was given to the young lady who was drowned so early in
her beautiful and happy career, by her husband, when they first
plighted their faith to one another. It was he who removed it from
her unconscious hand, and it was he who, when his death drew very
near, placed it in mine. The trust in which I received it, was,
that, you and Miss Rosa growing to manhood and womanhood, and your
betrothal prospering and coming to maturity, I should give it to
you to place upon her finger. Failing those desired results, it
was to remain in my possession.'
Some trouble was in the young man's face, and some indecision was
in the action of his hand, as Mr. Grewgious, looking steadfastly at
him, gave him the ring.
'Your placing it on her finger,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'will be the
solemn seal upon your strict fidelity to the living and the dead.
You are going to her, to make the last irrevocable preparations for
your marriage. Take it with you.'
The young man took the little case, and placed it in his breast.
'If anything should be amiss, if anything should be even slightly
wrong, between you; if you should have any secret consciousness
that you are committing yourself to this step for no higher reason
than because you have long been accustomed to look forward to it;
then,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'I charge you once more, by the living
and by the dead, to bring that ring back to me!'
Here Bazzard awoke himself by his own snoring; and, as is usual in
such cases, sat apoplectically staring at vacancy, as defying
vacancy to accuse him of having been asleep.
'Bazzard!' said Mr. Grewgious, harder than ever.
'I follow you, sir,' said Bazzard, 'and I have been following you.'
'In discharge of a trust, I have handed Mr. Edwin Drood a ring of
diamonds and rubies. You see?'
Edwin reproduced the little case, and opened it; and Bazzard looked
'I follow you both, sir,' returned Bazzard, 'and I witness the
Evidently anxious to get away and be alone, Edwin Drood now resumed
his outer clothing, muttering something about time and
appointments. The fog was reported no clearer (by the flying
waiter, who alighted from a speculative flight in the coffee
interest), but he went out into it; and Bazzard, after his manner,
Mr. Grewgious, left alone, walked softly and slowly to and fro, for
an hour and more. He was restless to-night, and seemed dispirited.
'I hope I have done right,' he said. 'The appeal to him seemed
necessary. It was hard to lose the ring, and yet it must have gone
from me very soon.'
He closed the empty little drawer with a sigh, and shut and locked
the escritoire, and came back to the solitary fireside.
'Her ring,' he went on. 'Will it come back to me? My mind hangs
about her ring very uneasily to-night. But that is explainable. I
have had it so long, and I have prized it so much! I wonder--'
He was in a wondering mood as well as a restless; for, though he
checked himself at that point, and took another walk, he resumed
his wondering when he sat down again.
'I wonder (for the ten-thousandth time, and what a weak fool I, for
what can it signify now!) whether he confided the charge of their
orphan child to me, because he knew--Good God, how like her mother
she has become!'
'I wonder whether he ever so much as suspected that some one doted
on her, at a hopeless, speechless distance, when he struck in and
won her. I wonder whether it ever crept into his mind who that
unfortunate some one was!'
'I wonder whether I shall sleep to-night! At all events, I will
shut out the world with the bedclothes, and try.'
Mr. Grewgious crossed the staircase to his raw and foggy bedroom,
and was soon ready for bed. Dimly catching sight of his face in
the misty looking-glass, he held his candle to it for a moment.
'A likely some one, YOU, to come into anybody's thoughts in such an
aspect!' he exclaimed. 'There! there! there! Get to bed, poor
man, and cease to jabber!'
With that, he extinguished his light, pulled up the bedclothes
around him, and with another sigh shut out the world. And yet
there are such unexplored romantic nooks in the unlikeliest men,
that even old tinderous and touchwoody P. J. T. Possibly Jabbered
Thus, at some odd times, in or about seventeen-forty-seven.
CHAPTER XII--A NIGHT WITH DURDLES
When Mr. Sapsea has nothing better to do, towards evening, and
finds the contemplation of his own profundity becoming a little
monotonous in spite of the vastness of the subject, he often takes
an airing in the Cathedral Close and thereabout. He likes to pass
the churchyard with a swelling air of proprietorship, and to
encourage in his breast a sort of benignant-landlord feeling, in
that he has been bountiful towards that meritorious tenant, Mrs.
Sapsea, and has publicly given her a prize. He likes to see a
stray face or two looking in through the railings, and perhaps
reading his inscription. Should he meet a stranger coming from the
churchyard with a quick step, he is morally convinced that the
stranger is 'with a blush retiring,' as monumentally directed.
Mr. Sapsea's importance has received enhancement, for he has become
Mayor of Cloisterham. Without mayors, and many of them, it cannot
be disputed that the whole framework of society--Mr. Sapsea is
confident that he invented that forcible figure--would fall to
pieces. Mayors have been knighted for 'going up' with addresses:
explosive machines intrepidly discharging shot and shell into the
English Grammar. Mr. Sapsea may 'go up' with an address. Rise,
Sir Thomas Sapsea! Of such is the salt of the earth.
Mr. Sapsea has improved the acquaintance of Mr. Jasper, since their
first meeting to partake of port, epitaph, backgammon, beef, and
salad. Mr. Sapsea has been received at the gatehouse with kindred
hospitality; and on that occasion Mr. Jasper seated himself at the
piano, and sang to him, tickling his ears--figuratively--long
enough to present a considerable area for tickling. What Mr.
Sapsea likes in that young man is, that he is always ready to
profit by the wisdom of his elders, and that he is sound, sir, at
the core. In proof of which, he sang to Mr. Sapsea that evening,
no kickshaw ditties, favourites with national enemies, but gave him
the genuine George the Third home-brewed; exhorting him (as 'my
brave boys') to reduce to a smashed condition all other islands but
this island, and all continents, peninsulas, isthmuses,
promontories, and other geographical forms of land soever, besides
sweeping the seas in all directions. In short, he rendered it
pretty clear that Providence made a distinct mistake in originating
so small a nation of hearts of oak, and so many other verminous
Mr. Sapsea, walking slowly this moist evening near the churchyard
with his hands behind him, on the look-out for a blushing and
retiring stranger, turns a corner, and comes instead into the
goodly presence of the Dean, conversing with the Verger and Mr.
Jasper. Mr. Sapsea makes his obeisance, and is instantly stricken
far more ecclesiastical than any Archbishop of York or Canterbury.
'You are evidently going to write a book about us, Mr. Jasper,'
quoth the Dean; 'to write a book about us. Well! We are very
ancient, and we ought to make a good book. We are not so richly
endowed in possessions as in age; but perhaps you will put THAT in
your book, among other things, and call attention to our wrongs.'
Mr. Tope, as in duty bound, is greatly entertained by this.
'I really have no intention at all, sir,' replies Jasper, 'of
turning author or archaeologist. It is but a whim of mine. And
even for my whim, Mr. Sapsea here is more accountable than I am.'
'How so, Mr. Mayor?' says the Dean, with a nod of good-natured
recognition of his Fetch. 'How is that, Mr. Mayor?'
'I am not aware,' Mr. Sapsea remarks, looking about him for
information, 'to what the Very Reverend the Dean does me the honour
of referring.' And then falls to studying his original in minute
points of detail.
'Durdles,' Mr. Tope hints.
'Ay!' the Dean echoes; 'Durdles, Durdles!'
'The truth is, sir,' explains Jasper, 'that my curiosity in the man
was first really stimulated by Mr. Sapsea. Mr. Sapsea's knowledge
of mankind and power of drawing out whatever is recluse or odd
around him, first led to my bestowing a second thought upon the
man: though of course I had met him constantly about. You would
not be surprised by this, Mr. Dean, if you had seen Mr. Sapsea deal
with him in his own parlour, as I did.'
'O!' cries Sapsea, picking up the ball thrown to him with ineffable
complacency and pomposity; 'yes, yes. The Very Reverend the Dean
refers to that? Yes. I happened to bring Durdles and Mr. Jasper
together. I regard Durdles as a Character.'
'A character, Mr. Sapsea, that with a few skilful touches you turn
inside out,' says Jasper.
'Nay, not quite that,' returns the lumbering auctioneer. 'I may
have a little influence over him, perhaps; and a little insight
into his character, perhaps. The Very Reverend the Dean will
please to bear in mind that I have seen the world.' Here Mr.
Sapsea gets a little behind the Dean, to inspect his coat-buttons.
'Well!' says the Dean, looking about him to see what has become of
his copyist: 'I hope, Mr. Mayor, you will use your study and
knowledge of Durdles to the good purpose of exhorting him not to
break our worthy and respected Choir-Master's neck; we cannot
afford it; his head and voice are much too valuable to us.'
Mr. Tope is again highly entertained, and, having fallen into
respectful convulsions of laughter, subsides into a deferential
murmur, importing that surely any gentleman would deem it a
pleasure and an honour to have his neck broken, in return for such
a compliment from such a source.
'I will take it upon myself, sir,' observes Sapsea loftily, 'to
answer for Mr. Jasper's neck. I will tell Durdles to be careful of
it. He will mind what _I_ say. How is it at present endangered?'
he inquires, looking about him with magnificent patronage.
'Only by my making a moonlight expedition with Durdles among the
tombs, vaults, towers, and ruins,' returns Jasper. 'You remember
suggesting, when you brought us together, that, as a lover of the
picturesque, it might be worth my while?'
'I remember!' replies the auctioneer. And the solemn idiot really
believes that he does remember.
'Profiting by your hint,' pursues Jasper, 'I have had some day-
rambles with the extraordinary old fellow, and we are to make a
moonlight hole-and-corner exploration to-night.'
'And here he is,' says the Dean.
Durdles with his dinner-bundle in his hand, is indeed beheld
slouching towards them. Slouching nearer, and perceiving the Dean,
he pulls off his hat, and is slouching away with it under his arm,
when Mr. Sapsea stops him.
'Mind you take care of my friend,' is the injunction Mr. Sapsea
lays upon him.
'What friend o' yourn is dead?' asks Durdles. 'No orders has come
in for any friend o' yourn.'
'I mean my live friend there.'
'O! him?' says Durdles. 'He can take care of himself, can Mister
'But do you take care of him too,' says Sapsea.
Whom Durdles (there being command in his tone) surlily surveys from
head to foot.
'With submission to his Reverence the Dean, if you'll mind what
concerns you, Mr. Sapsea, Durdles he'll mind what concerns him.'
'You're out of temper,' says Mr. Sapsea, winking to the company to
observe how smoothly he will manage him. 'My friend concerns me,
and Mr. Jasper is my friend. And you are my friend.'
'Don't you get into a bad habit of boasting,' retorts Durdles, with
a grave cautionary nod. 'It'll grow upon you.'
'You are out of temper,' says Sapsea again; reddening, but again
sinking to the company.
'I own to it,' returns Durdles; 'I don't like liberties.'
Mr. Sapsea winks a third wink to the company, as who should say:
'I think you will agree with me that I have settled HIS business;'
and stalks out of the controversy.
Durdles then gives the Dean a good evening, and adding, as he puts
his hat on, 'You'll find me at home, Mister Jarsper, as agreed,
when you want me; I'm a-going home to clean myself,' soon slouches
out of sight. This going home to clean himself is one of the man's
incomprehensible compromises with inexorable facts; he, and his
hat, and his boots, and his clothes, never showing any trace of
cleaning, but being uniformly in one condition of dust and grit.
The lamplighter now dotting the quiet Close with specks of light,
and running at a great rate up and down his little ladder with that
object--his little ladder under the sacred shadow of whose
inconvenience generations had grown up, and which all Cloisterham
would have stood aghast at the idea of abolishing--the Dean
withdraws to his dinner, Mr. Tope to his tea, and Mr. Jasper to his
piano. There, with no light but that of the fire, he sits chanting
choir-music in a low and beautiful voice, for two or three hours;
in short, until it has been for some time dark, and the moon is
about to rise.
Then he closes his piano softly, softly changes his coat for a pea-
jacket, with a goodly wicker-cased bottle in its largest pocket,
and putting on a low-crowned, flap-brimmed hat, goes softly out.
Why does he move so softly to-night? No outward reason is apparent
for it. Can there be any sympathetic reason crouching darkly
Repairing to Durdles's unfinished house, or hole in the city wall,
and seeing a light within it, he softly picks his course among the
gravestones, monuments, and stony lumber of the yard, already
touched here and there, sidewise, by the rising moon. The two
journeymen have left their two great saws sticking in their blocks
of stone; and two skeleton journeymen out of the Dance of Death
might be grinning in the shadow of their sheltering sentry-boxes,
about to slash away at cutting out the gravestones of the next two
people destined to die in Cloisterham. Likely enough, the two
think little of that now, being alive, and perhaps merry. Curious,
to make a guess at the two;--or say one of the two!
The light moves, and he appears with it at the door. He would seem
to have been 'cleaning himself' with the aid of a bottle, jug, and
tumbler; for no other cleansing instruments are visible in the bare
brick room with rafters overhead and no plastered ceiling, into
which he shows his visitor.
'Are you ready?'
'I am ready, Mister Jarsper. Let the old 'uns come out if they
dare, when we go among their tombs. My spirit is ready for 'em.'
'Do you mean animal spirits, or ardent?'
'The one's the t'other,' answers Durdles, 'and I mean 'em both.'
He takes a lantern from a hook, puts a match or two in his pocket
wherewith to light it, should there be need; and they go out
together, dinner-bundle and all.
Surely an unaccountable sort of expedition! That Durdles himself,
who is always prowling among old graves, and ruins, like a Ghoul--
that he should be stealing forth to climb, and dive, and wander
without an object, is nothing extraordinary; but that the Choir-
Master or any one else should hold it worth his while to be with
him, and to study moonlight effects in such company is another
affair. Surely an unaccountable sort of expedition, therefore!
''Ware that there mound by the yard-gate, Mister Jarsper.'
'I see it. What is it?'
Mr. Jasper stops, and waits for him to come up, for he lags behind.
'What you call quick-lime?'
'Ay!' says Durdles; 'quick enough to eat your boots. With a little
handy stirring, quick enough to eat your bones.'
They go on, presently passing the red windows of the Travellers'
Twopenny, and emerging into the clear moonlight of the Monks'
Vineyard. This crossed, they come to Minor Canon Corner: of which
the greater part lies in shadow until the moon shall rise higher in
The sound of a closing house-door strikes their ears, and two men
come out. These are Mr. Crisparkle and Neville. Jasper, with a
strange and sudden smile upon his face, lays the palm of his hand
upon the breast of Durdles, stopping him where he stands.
At that end of Minor Canon Corner the shadow is profound in the
existing state of the light: at that end, too, there is a piece of
old dwarf wall, breast high, the only remaining boundary of what
was once a garden, but is now the thoroughfare. Jasper and Durdles
would have turned this wall in another instant; but, stopping so
short, stand behind it.
'Those two are only sauntering,' Jasper whispers; 'they will go out
into the moonlight soon. Let us keep quiet here, or they will
detain us, or want to join us, or what not.'
Durdles nods assent, and falls to munching some fragments from his
bundle. Jasper folds his arms upon the top of the wall, and, with
his chin resting on them, watches. He takes no note whatever of
the Minor Canon, but watches Neville, as though his eye were at the
trigger of a loaded rifle, and he had covered him, and were going
to fire. A sense of destructive power is so expressed in his face,
that even Durdles pauses in his munching, and looks at him, with an
unmunched something in his cheek.
Meanwhile Mr. Crisparkle and Neville walk to and fro, quietly
talking together. What they say, cannot be heard consecutively;
but Mr. Jasper has already distinguished his own name more than
'This is the first day of the week,' Mr. Crisparkle can be
distinctly heard to observe, as they turn back; 'and the last day
of the week is Christmas Eve.'
'You may be certain of me, sir.'
The echoes were favourable at those points, but as the two
approach, the sound of their talking becomes confused again. The
word 'confidence,' shattered by the echoes, but still capable of
being pieced together, is uttered by Mr. Crisparkle. As they draw
still nearer, this fragment of a reply is heard: 'Not deserved
yet, but shall be, sir.' As they turn away again, Jasper again
hears his own name, in connection with the words from Mr.
Crisparkle: 'Remember that I said I answered for you confidently.'
Then the sound of their talk becomes confused again; they halting
for a little while, and some earnest action on the part of Neville
succeeding. When they move once more, Mr. Crisparkle is seen to
look up at the sky, and to point before him. They then slowly
disappear; passing out into the moonlight at the opposite end of
It is not until they are gone, that Mr. Jasper moves. But then he
turns to Durdles, and bursts into a fit of laughter. Durdles, who
still has that suspended something in his cheek, and who sees
nothing to laugh at, stares at him until Mr. Jasper lays his face
down on his arms to have his laugh out. Then Durdles bolts the
something, as if desperately resigning himself to indigestion.
Among those secluded nooks there is very little stir or movement
after dark. There is little enough in the high tide of the day,
but there is next to none at night. Besides that the cheerfully
frequented High Street lies nearly parallel to the spot (the old
Cathedral rising between the two), and is the natural channel in
which the Cloisterham traffic flows, a certain awful hush pervades
the ancient pile, the cloisters, and the churchyard, after dark,
which not many people care to encounter. Ask the first hundred
citizens of Cloisterham, met at random in the streets at noon, if
they believed in Ghosts, they would tell you no; but put them to
choose at night between these eerie Precincts and the thoroughfare
of shops, and you would find that ninety-nine declared for the
longer round and the more frequented way. The cause of this is not
to be found in any local superstition that attaches to the
Precincts--albeit a mysterious lady, with a child in her arms and a
rope dangling from her neck, has been seen flitting about there by
sundry witnesses as intangible as herself--but it is to be sought
in the innate shrinking of dust with the breath of life in it from
dust out of which the breath of life has passed; also, in the
widely diffused, and almost as widely unacknowledged, reflection:
'If the dead do, under any circumstances, become visible to the
living, these are such likely surroundings for the purpose that I,
the living, will get out of them as soon as I can.' Hence, when
Mr. Jasper and Durdles pause to glance around them, before
descending into the crypt by a small side door, of which the latter
has a key, the whole expanse of moonlight in their view is utterly
deserted. One might fancy that the tide of life was stemmed by Mr.
Jasper's own gatehouse. The murmur of the tide is heard beyond;
but no wave passes the archway, over which his lamp burns red
behind his curtain, as if the building were a Lighthouse.
They enter, locking themselves in, descend the rugged steps, and
are down in the Crypt. The lantern is not wanted, for the
moonlight strikes in at the groined windows, bare of glass, the
broken frames for which cast patterns on the ground. The heavy
pillars which support the roof engender masses of black shade, but
between them there are lanes of light. Up and down these lanes
they walk, Durdles discoursing of the 'old uns' he yet counts on
disinterring, and slapping a wall, in which he considers 'a whole
family on 'em' to be stoned and earthed up, just as if he were a
familiar friend of the family. The taciturnity of Durdles is for
the time overcome by Mr. Jasper's wicker bottle, which circulates
freely;--in the sense, that is to say, that its contents enter
freely into Mr. Durdles's circulation, while Mr. Jasper only rinses
his mouth once, and casts forth the rinsing.
They are to ascend the great Tower. On the steps by which they
rise to the Cathedral, Durdles pauses for new store of breath. The
steps are very dark, but out of the darkness they can see the lanes
of light they have traversed. Durdles seats himself upon a step.
Mr. Jasper seats himself upon another. The odour from the wicker
bottle (which has somehow passed into Durdles's keeping) soon
intimates that the cork has been taken out; but this is not
ascertainable through the sense of sight, since neither can descry
the other. And yet, in talking, they turn to one another, as
though their faces could commune together.
'This is good stuff, Mister Jarsper!'
'It is very good stuff, I hope.--I bought it on purpose.'
'They don't show, you see, the old uns don't, Mister Jarsper!'
'It would be a more confused world than it is, if they could.'
'Well, it WOULD lead towards a mixing of things,' Durdles
acquiesces: pausing on the remark, as if the idea of ghosts had
not previously presented itself to him in a merely inconvenient
light, domestically or chronologically. 'But do you think there
may be Ghosts of other things, though not of men and women?'
'What things? Flower-beds and watering-pots? horses and harness?'
'What cries do you mean? Chairs to mend?'
'No. I mean screeches. Now I'll tell you, Mr. Jarsper. Wait a
bit till I put the bottle right.' Here the cork is evidently taken
out again, and replaced again. 'There! NOW it's right! This time
last year, only a few days later, I happened to have been doing
what was correct by the season, in the way of giving it the welcome
it had a right to expect, when them town-boys set on me at their
worst. At length I gave 'em the slip, and turned in here. And
here I fell asleep. And what woke me? The ghost of a cry. The
ghost of one terrific shriek, which shriek was followed by the
ghost of the howl of a dog: a long, dismal, woeful howl, such as a
dog gives when a person's dead. That was MY last Christmas Eve.'
'What do you mean?' is the very abrupt, and, one might say, fierce
'I mean that I made inquiries everywhere about, and, that no living
ears but mine heard either that cry or that howl. So I say they
was both ghosts; though why they came to me, I've never made out.'
'I thought you were another kind of man,' says Jasper, scornfully.
'So I thought myself,' answers Durdles with his usual composure;
'and yet I was picked out for it.'
Jasper had risen suddenly, when he asked him what he meant, and he
now says, 'Come; we shall freeze here; lead the way.'
Durdles complies, not over-steadily; opens the door at the top of
the steps with the key he has already used; and so emerges on the
Cathedral level, in a passage at the side of the chancel. Here,
the moonlight is so very bright again that the colours of the
nearest stained-glass window are thrown upon their faces. The
appearance of the unconscious Durdles, holding the door open for
his companion to follow, as if from the grave, is ghastly enough,
with a purple hand across his face, and a yellow splash upon his
brow; but he bears the close scrutiny of his companion in an
insensible way, although it is prolonged while the latter fumbles
among his pockets for a key confided to him that will open an iron
gate, so to enable them to pass to the staircase of the great
'That and the bottle are enough for you to carry,' he says, giving
it to Durdles; 'hand your bundle to me; I am younger and longer-
winded than you.' Durdles hesitates for a moment between bundle
and bottle; but gives the preference to the bottle as being by far
the better company, and consigns the dry weight to his fellow-
Then they go up the winding staircase of the great tower,
toilsomely, turning and turning, and lowering their heads to avoid
the stairs above, or the rough stone pivot around which they twist.
Durdles has lighted his lantern, by drawing from the cold, hard
wall a spark of that mysterious fire which lurks in everything,
and, guided by this speck, they clamber up among the cobwebs and
the dust. Their way lies through strange places. Twice or thrice
they emerge into level, low-arched galleries, whence they can look
down into the moon-lit nave; and where Durdles, waving his lantern,
waves the dim angels' heads upon the corbels of the roof, seeming
to watch their progress. Anon they turn into narrower and steeper
staircases, and the night-air begins to blow upon them, and the
chirp of some startled jackdaw or frightened rook precedes the
heavy beating of wings in a confined space, and the beating down of
dust and straws upon their heads. At last, leaving their light
behind a stair--for it blows fresh up here--they look down on
Cloisterham, fair to see in the moonlight: its ruined habitations
and sanctuaries of the dead, at the tower's base: its moss-
softened red-tiled roofs and red-brick houses of the living,
clustered beyond: its river winding down from the mist on the
horizon, as though that were its source, and already heaving with a
restless knowledge of its approach towards the sea.
Once again, an unaccountable expedition this! Jasper (always
moving softly with no visible reason) contemplates the scene, and
especially that stillest part of it which the Cathedral
overshadows. But he contemplates Durdles quite as curiously, and
Durdles is by times conscious of his watchful eyes.
Only by times, because Durdles is growing drowsy. As aeronauts
lighten the load they carry, when they wish to rise, similarly
Durdles has lightened the wicker bottle in coming up. Snatches of
sleep surprise him on his legs, and stop him in his talk. A mild
fit of calenture seizes him, in which he deems that the ground so
far below, is on a level with the tower, and would as lief walk off
the tower into the air as not. Such is his state when they begin
to come down. And as aeronauts make themselves heavier when they
wish to descend, similarly Durdles charges himself with more liquid
from the wicker bottle, that he may come down the better.
The iron gate attained and locked--but not before Durdles has
tumbled twice, and cut an eyebrow open once--they descend into the
crypt again, with the intent of issuing forth as they entered.
But, while returning among those lanes of light, Durdles becomes so
very uncertain, both of foot and speech, that he half drops, half
throws himself down, by one of the heavy pillars, scarcely less
heavy than itself, and indistinctly appeals to his companion for
forty winks of a second each.
'If you will have it so, or must have it so,' replies Jasper, 'I'll
not leave you here. Take them, while I walk to and fro.'
Durdles is asleep at once; and in his sleep he dreams a dream.
It is not much of a dream, considering the vast extent of the
domains of dreamland, and their wonderful productions; it is only
remarkable for being unusually restless and unusually real. He
dreams of lying there, asleep, and yet counting his companion's
footsteps as he walks to and fro. He dreams that the footsteps die
away into distance of time and of space, and that something touches
him, and that something falls from his hand. Then something clinks
and gropes about, and he dreams that he is alone for so long a
time, that the lanes of light take new directions as the moon
advances in her course. From succeeding unconsciousness he passes
into a dream of slow uneasiness from cold; and painfully awakes to
a perception of the lanes of light--really changed, much as he had
dreamed--and Jasper walking among them, beating his hands and feet.
'Holloa!' Durdles cries out, unmeaningly alarmed.
'Awake at last?' says Jasper, coming up to him. 'Do you know that
your forties have stretched into thousands?'
'They have though.'
'What's the time?'
'Hark! The bells are going in the Tower!'
They strike four quarters, and then the great bell strikes.
'Two!' cries Durdles, scrambling up; 'why didn't you try to wake
me, Mister Jarsper?'
'I did. I might as well have tried to wake the dead--your own
family of dead, up in the corner there.'
'Did you touch me?'
'Touch you! Yes. Shook you.'
As Durdles recalls that touching something in his dream, he looks
down on the pavement, and sees the key of the crypt door lying
close to where he himself lay.
'I dropped you, did I?' he says, picking it up, and recalling that
part of his dream. As he gathers himself up again into an upright
position, or into a position as nearly upright as he ever
maintains, he is again conscious of being watched by his companion.
'Well?' says Jasper, smiling, 'are you quite ready? Pray don't
'Let me get my bundle right, Mister Jarsper, and I'm with you.' As
he ties it afresh, he is once more conscious that he is very
'What do you suspect me of, Mister Jarsper?' he asks, with drunken
displeasure. 'Let them as has any suspicions of Durdles name 'em.'
'I've no suspicions of you, my good Mr. Durdles; but I have
suspicions that my bottle was filled with something stiffer than
either of us supposed. And I also have suspicions,' Jasper adds,
taking it from the pavement and turning it bottom upwards, 'that
Durdles condescends to laugh at this. Continuing to chuckle when
his laugh is over, as though remonstrant with himself on his
drinking powers, he rolls to the door and unlocks it. They both
pass out, and Durdles relocks it, and pockets his key.
'A thousand thanks for a curious and interesting night,' says
Jasper, giving him his hand; 'you can make your own way home?'
'I should think so!' answers Durdles. 'If you was to offer Durdles
the affront to show him his way home, he wouldn't go home.
Durdles wouldn't go home till morning;
And THEN Durdles wouldn't go home,
Durdles wouldn't.' This with the utmost defiance.
'Good-night, Mister Jarsper.'
Each is turning his own way, when a sharp whistle rends the
silence, and the jargon is yelped out:
Widdy widdy wen!
Widdy widdy wy!
Then--E--don't --go--then--I--shy -
Widdy Widdy Wake-cock warning!'
Instantly afterwards, a rapid fire of stones rattles at the
Cathedral wall, and the hideous small boy is beheld opposite,
dancing in the moonlight.
'What! Is that baby-devil on the watch there!' cries Jasper in a
fury: so quickly roused, and so violent, that he seems an older
devil himself. 'I shall shed the blood of that impish wretch! I
know I shall do it!' Regardless of the fire, though it hits him
more than once, he rushes at Deputy, collars him, and tries to
bring him across. But Deputy is not to be so easily brought
across. With a diabolical insight into the strongest part of his
position, he is no sooner taken by the throat than he curls up his
legs, forces his assailant to hang him, as it were, and gurgles in
his throat, and screws his body, and twists, as already undergoing
the first agonies of strangulation. There is nothing for it but to