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The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

Part 6 out of 6

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'I did think of you,' Rosa told him; 'but Minor Canon Corner was so
near him--'

'I understand. It was quite natural.'

'I have told Mr. Crisparkle,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'all that you
told me last night, my dear. Of course I should have written it to
him immediately; but his coming was most opportune. And it was
particularly kind of him to come, for he had but just gone.'

'Have you settled,' asked Rosa, appealing to them both, 'what is to
be done for Helena and her brother?'

'Why really,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'I am in great perplexity. If
even Mr. Grewgious, whose head is much longer than mine, and who is
a whole night's cogitation in advance of me, is undecided, what
must I be!'

The Unlimited here put her head in at the door--after having
rapped, and been authorised to present herself--announcing that a
gentleman wished for a word with another gentleman named
Crisparkle, if any such gentleman were there. If no such gentleman
were there, he begged pardon for being mistaken.

'Such a gentleman is here,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'but is engaged
just now.'

'Is it a dark gentleman?' interposed Rosa, retreating on her
guardian.

'No, Miss, more of a brown gentleman.'

'You are sure not with black hair?' asked Rosa, taking courage.

'Quite sure of that, Miss. Brown hair and blue eyes.'

'Perhaps,' hinted Mr. Grewgious, with habitual caution, 'it might
be well to see him, reverend sir, if you don't object. When one is
in a difficulty or at a loss, one never knows in what direction a
way out may chance to open. It is a business principle of mine, in
such a case, not to close up any direction, but to keep an eye on
every direction that may present itself. I could relate an
anecdote in point, but that it would be premature.'

'If Miss Rosa will allow me, then? Let the gentleman come in,'
said Mr. Crisparkle.

The gentleman came in; apologised, with a frank but modest grace,
for not finding Mr. Crisparkle alone; turned to Mr. Crisparkle, and
smilingly asked the unexpected question: 'Who am I?'

'You are the gentleman I saw smoking under the trees in Staple Inn,
a few minutes ago.'

'True. There I saw you. Who else am I?'

Mr. Crisparkle concentrated his attention on a handsome face, much
sunburnt; and the ghost of some departed boy seemed to rise,
gradually and dimly, in the room.

The gentleman saw a struggling recollection lighten up the Minor
Canon's features, and smiling again, said: 'What will you have for
breakfast this morning? You are out of jam.'

'Wait a moment!' cried Mr. Crisparkle, raising his right hand.
'Give me another instant! Tartar!'

The two shook hands with the greatest heartiness, and then went the
wonderful length--for Englishmen--of laying their hands each on the
other's shoulders, and looking joyfully each into the other's face.

'My old fag!' said Mr. Crisparkle.

'My old master!' said Mr. Tartar.

'You saved me from drowning!' said Mr. Crisparkle.

'After which you took to swimming, you know!' said Mr. Tartar.

'God bless my soul!' said Mr. Crisparkle.

'Amen!' said Mr. Tartar.

And then they fell to shaking hands most heartily again.

'Imagine,' exclaimed Mr. Crisparkle, with glistening eyes: 'Miss
Rosa Bud and Mr. Grewgious, imagine Mr. Tartar, when he was the
smallest of juniors, diving for me, catching me, a big heavy
senior, by the hair of the head, and striking out for the shore
with me like a water-giant!'

'Imagine my not letting him sink, as I was his fag!' said Mr.
Tartar. 'But the truth being that he was my best protector and
friend, and did me more good than all the masters put together, an
irrational impulse seized me to pick him up, or go down with him.'

'Hem! Permit me, sir, to have the honour,' said Mr. Grewgious,
advancing with extended hand, 'for an honour I truly esteem it. I
am proud to make your acquaintance. I hope you didn't take cold.
I hope you were not inconvenienced by swallowing too much water.
How have you been since?'

It was by no means apparent that Mr. Grewgious knew what he said,
though it was very apparent that he meant to say something highly
friendly and appreciative.

If Heaven, Rosa thought, had but sent such courage and skill to her
poor mother's aid! And he to have been so slight and young then!

'I don't wish to be complimented upon it, I thank you; but I think
I have an idea,' Mr. Grewgious announced, after taking a jog-trot
or two across the room, so unexpected and unaccountable that they
all stared at him, doubtful whether he was choking or had the
cramp--'I THINK I have an idea. I believe I have had the pleasure
of seeing Mr. Tartar's name as tenant of the top set in the house
next the top set in the corner?'

'Yes, sir,' returned Mr. Tartar. 'You are right so far.'

'I am right so far,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'Tick that off;' which he
did, with his right thumb on his left. 'Might you happen to know
the name of your neighbour in the top set on the other side of the
party-wall?' coming very close to Mr. Tartar, to lose nothing of
his face, in his shortness of sight.

'Landless.'

'Tick that off,' said Mr. Grewgious, taking another trot, and then
coming back. 'No personal knowledge, I suppose, sir?'

'Slight, but some.'

'Tick that off,' said Mr. Grewgious, taking another trot, and again
coming back. 'Nature of knowledge, Mr. Tartar?'

'I thought he seemed to be a young fellow in a poor way, and I
asked his leave--only within a day or so--to share my flowers up
there with him; that is to say, to extend my flower-garden to his
windows.'

'Would you have the kindness to take seats?' said Mr. Grewgious.
'I HAVE an idea!'

They complied; Mr. Tartar none the less readily, for being all
abroad; and Mr. Grewgious, seated in the centre, with his hands
upon his knees, thus stated his idea, with his usual manner of
having got the statement by heart.

'I cannot as yet make up my mind whether it is prudent to hold open
communication under present circumstances, and on the part of the
fair member of the present company, with Mr. Neville or Miss
Helena. I have reason to know that a local friend of ours (on whom
I beg to bestow a passing but a hearty malediction, with the kind
permission of my reverend friend) sneaks to and fro, and dodges up
and down. When not doing so himself, he may have some informant
skulking about, in the person of a watchman, porter, or such-like
hanger-on of Staple. On the other hand, Miss Rosa very naturally
wishes to see her friend Miss Helena, and it would seem important
that at least Miss Helena (if not her brother too, through her)
should privately know from Miss Rosa's lips what has occurred, and
what has been threatened. Am I agreed with generally in the views
I take?'

'I entirely coincide with them,' said Mr. Crisparkle, who had been
very attentive.

'As I have no doubt I should,' added Mr. Tartar, smiling, 'if I
understood them.'

'Fair and softly, sir,' said Mr. Grewgious; 'we shall fully confide
in you directly, if you will favour us with your permission. Now,
if our local friend should have any informant on the spot, it is
tolerably clear that such informant can only be set to watch the
chambers in the occupation of Mr. Neville. He reporting, to our
local friend, who comes and goes there, our local friend would
supply for himself, from his own previous knowledge, the identity
of the parties. Nobody can be set to watch all Staple, or to
concern himself with comers and goers to other sets of chambers:
unless, indeed, mine.'

'I begin to understand to what you tend,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'and
highly approve of your caution.'

'I needn't repeat that I know nothing yet of the why and
wherefore,' said Mr. Tartar; 'but I also understand to what you
tend, so let me say at once that my chambers are freely at your
disposal.'

'There!' cried Mr. Grewgious, smoothing his head triumphantly, 'now
we have all got the idea. You have it, my dear?'

'I think I have,' said Rosa, blushing a little as Mr. Tartar looked
quickly towards her.

'You see, you go over to Staple with Mr. Crisparkle and Mr.
Tartar,' said Mr. Grewgious; 'I going in and out, and out and in
alone, in my usual way; you go up with those gentlemen to Mr.
Tartar's rooms; you look into Mr. Tartar's flower-garden; you wait
for Miss Helena's appearance there, or you signify to Miss Helena
that you are close by; and you communicate with her freely, and no
spy can be the wiser.'

'I am very much afraid I shall be--'

'Be what, my dear?' asked Mr. Grewgious, as she hesitated. 'Not
frightened?'

'No, not that,' said Rosa, shyly; 'in Mr. Tartar's way. We seem to
be appropriating Mr. Tartar's residence so very coolly.'

'I protest to you,' returned that gentleman, 'that I shall think
the better of it for evermore, if your voice sounds in it only
once.'

Rosa, not quite knowing what to say about that, cast down her eyes,
and turning to Mr. Grewgious, dutifully asked if she should put her
hat on? Mr. Grewgious being of opinion that she could not do
better, she withdrew for the purpose. Mr. Crisparkle took the
opportunity of giving Mr. Tartar a summary of the distresses of
Neville and his sister; the opportunity was quite long enough, as
the hat happened to require a little extra fitting on.

Mr. Tartar gave his arm to Rosa, and Mr. Crisparkle walked,
detached, in front.

'Poor, poor Eddy!' thought Rosa, as they went along.

Mr. Tartar waved his right hand as he bent his head down over Rosa,
talking in an animated way.

'It was not so powerful or so sun-browned when it saved Mr.
Crisparkle,' thought Rosa, glancing at it; 'but it must have been
very steady and determined even then.'

Mr. Tartar told her he had been a sailor, roving everywhere for
years and years.

'When are you going to sea again?' asked Rosa.

'Never!'

Rosa wondered what the girls would say if they could see her
crossing the wide street on the sailor's arm. And she fancied that
the passers-by must think her very little and very helpless,
contrasted with the strong figure that could have caught her up and
carried her out of any danger, miles and miles without resting.

She was thinking further, that his far-seeing blue eyes looked as
if they had been used to watch danger afar off, and to watch it
without flinching, drawing nearer and nearer: when, happening to
raise her own eyes, she found that he seemed to be thinking
something about THEM.

This a little confused Rosebud, and may account for her never
afterwards quite knowing how she ascended (with his help) to his
garden in the air, and seemed to get into a marvellous country that
came into sudden bloom like the country on the summit of the magic
bean-stalk. May it flourish for ever!

CHAPTER XXII--A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON

Mr. Tartar's chambers were the neatest, the cleanest, and the best-
ordered chambers ever seen under the sun, moon, and stars. The
floors were scrubbed to that extent, that you might have supposed
the London blacks emancipated for ever, and gone out of the land
for good. Every inch of brass-work in Mr. Tartar's possession was
polished and burnished, till it shone like a brazen mirror. No
speck, nor spot, nor spatter soiled the purity of any of Mr.
Tartar's household gods, large, small, or middle-sized. His
sitting-room was like the admiral's cabin, his bath-room was like a
dairy, his sleeping-chamber, fitted all about with lockers and
drawers, was like a seedsman's shop; and his nicely-balanced cot
just stirred in the midst, as if it breathed. Everything belonging
to Mr. Tartar had quarters of its own assigned to it: his maps and
charts had their quarters; his books had theirs; his brushes had
theirs; his boots had theirs; his clothes had theirs; his case-
bottles had theirs; his telescopes and other instruments had
theirs. Everything was readily accessible. Shelf, bracket,
locker, hook, and drawer were equally within reach, and were
equally contrived with a view to avoiding waste of room, and
providing some snug inches of stowage for something that would have
exactly fitted nowhere else. His gleaming little service of plate
was so arranged upon his sideboard as that a slack salt-spoon would
have instantly betrayed itself; his toilet implements were so
arranged upon his dressing-table as that a toothpick of slovenly
deportment could have been reported at a glance. So with the
curiosities he had brought home from various voyages. Stuffed,
dried, repolished, or otherwise preserved, according to their kind;
birds, fishes, reptiles, arms, articles of dress, shells, seaweeds,
grasses, or memorials of coral reef; each was displayed in its
especial place, and each could have been displayed in no better
place. Paint and varnish seemed to be kept somewhere out of sight,
in constant readiness to obliterate stray finger-marks wherever any
might become perceptible in Mr. Tartar's chambers. No man-of-war
was ever kept more spick and span from careless touch. On this
bright summer day, a neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tartar's
flower-garden as only a sailor can rig it, and there was a sea-
going air upon the whole effect, so delightfully complete, that the
flower-garden might have appertained to stern-windows afloat, and
the whole concern might have bowled away gallantly with all on
board, if Mr. Tartar had only clapped to his lips the speaking-
trumpet that was slung in a corner, and given hoarse orders to
heave the anchor up, look alive there, men, and get all sail upon
her!

Mr. Tartar doing the honours of this gallant craft was of a piece
with the rest. When a man rides an amiable hobby that shies at
nothing and kicks nobody, it is only agreeable to find him riding
it with a humorous sense of the droll side of the creature. When
the man is a cordial and an earnest man by nature, and withal is
perfectly fresh and genuine, it may be doubted whether he is ever
seen to greater advantage than at such a time. So Rosa would have
naturally thought (even if she hadn't been conducted over the ship
with all the homage due to the First Lady of the Admiralty, or
First Fairy of the Sea), that it was charming to see and hear Mr.
Tartar half laughing at, and half rejoicing in, his various
contrivances. So Rosa would have naturally thought, anyhow, that
the sunburnt sailor showed to great advantage when, the inspection
finished, he delicately withdrew out of his admiral's cabin,
beseeching her to consider herself its Queen, and waving her free
of his flower-garden with the hand that had had Mr. Crisparkle's
life in it.

'Helena! Helena Landless! Are you there?'

'Who speaks to me? Not Rosa?' Then a second handsome face
appearing.

'Yes, my darling!'

'Why, how did you come here, dearest?'

'I--I don't quite know,' said Rosa with a blush; 'unless I am
dreaming!'

Why with a blush? For their two faces were alone with the other
flowers. Are blushes among the fruits of the country of the magic
bean-stalk?

'_I_ am not dreaming,' said Helena, smiling. 'I should take more
for granted if I were. How do we come together--or so near
together--so very unexpectedly?'

Unexpectedly indeed, among the dingy gables and chimney-pots of P.
J. T.'s connection, and the flowers that had sprung from the salt
sea. But Rosa, waking, told in a hurry how they came to be
together, and all the why and wherefore of that matter.

'And Mr. Crisparkle is here,' said Rosa, in rapid conclusion; 'and,
could you believe it? long ago he saved his life!'

'I could believe any such thing of Mr. Crisparkle,' returned
Helena, with a mantling face.

(More blushes in the bean-stalk country!)

'Yes, but it wasn't Crisparkle,' said Rosa, quickly putting in the
correction.

'I don't understand, love.'

'It was very nice of Mr. Crisparkle to be saved,' said Rosa, 'and
he couldn't have shown his high opinion of Mr. Tartar more
expressively. But it was Mr. Tartar who saved him.'

Helena's dark eyes looked very earnestly at the bright face among
the leaves, and she asked, in a slower and more thoughtful tone:

'Is Mr. Tartar with you now, dear?'

'No; because he has given up his rooms to me--to us, I mean. It is
such a beautiful place!'

'Is it?'

'It is like the inside of the most exquisite ship that ever sailed.
It is like--it is like--'

'Like a dream?' suggested Helena.

Rosa answered with a little nod, and smelled the flowers.

Helena resumed, after a short pause of silence, during which she
seemed (or it was Rosa's fancy) to compassionate somebody: 'My
poor Neville is reading in his own room, the sun being so very
bright on this side just now. I think he had better not know that
you are so near.'

'O, I think so too!' cried Rosa very readily.

'I suppose,' pursued Helena, doubtfully, 'that he must know by-and-
by all you have told me; but I am not sure. Ask Mr. Crisparkle's
advice, my darling. Ask him whether I may tell Neville as much or
as little of what you have told me as I think best.'

Rosa subsided into her state-cabin, and propounded the question.
The Minor Canon was for the free exercise of Helena's judgment.

'I thank him very much,' said Helena, when Rosa emerged again with
her report. 'Ask him whether it would be best to wait until any
more maligning and pursuing of Neville on the part of this wretch
shall disclose itself, or to try to anticipate it: I mean, so far
as to find out whether any such goes on darkly about us?'

The Minor Canon found this point so difficult to give a confident
opinion on, that, after two or three attempts and failures, he
suggested a reference to Mr. Grewgious. Helena acquiescing, he
betook himself (with a most unsuccessful assumption of lounging
indifference) across the quadrangle to P. J. T.'s, and stated it.
Mr. Grewgious held decidedly to the general principle, that if you
could steal a march upon a brigand or a wild beast, you had better
do it; and he also held decidedly to the special case, that John
Jasper was a brigand and a wild beast in combination.

Thus advised, Mr. Crisparkle came back again and reported to Rosa,
who in her turn reported to Helena. She now steadily pursuing her
train of thought at her window, considered thereupon.

'We may count on Mr. Tartar's readiness to help us, Rosa?' she
inquired.

O yes! Rosa shyly thought so. O yes, Rosa shyly believed she
could almost answer for it. But should she ask Mr. Crisparkle? 'I
think your authority on the point as good as his, my dear,' said
Helena, sedately, 'and you needn't disappear again for that.' Odd
of Helena!

'You see, Neville,' Helena pursued after more reflection, 'knows no
one else here: he has not so much as exchanged a word with any one
else here. If Mr. Tartar would call to see him openly and often;
if he would spare a minute for the purpose, frequently; if he would
even do so, almost daily; something might come of it.'

'Something might come of it, dear?' repeated Rosa, surveying her
friend's beauty with a highly perplexed face. 'Something might?'

'If Neville's movements are really watched, and if the purpose
really is to isolate him from all friends and acquaintance and wear
his daily life out grain by grain (which would seem to be the
threat to you), does it not appear likely,' said Helena, 'that his
enemy would in some way communicate with Mr. Tartar to warn him off
from Neville? In which case, we might not only know the fact, but
might know from Mr. Tartar what the terms of the communication
were.'

'I see!' cried Rosa. And immediately darted into her state-cabin
again.

Presently her pretty face reappeared, with a greatly heightened
colour, and she said that she had told Mr. Crisparkle, and that Mr.
Crisparkle had fetched in Mr. Tartar, and that Mr. Tartar--'who is
waiting now, in case you want him,' added Rosa, with a half look
back, and in not a little confusion between the inside of the
state-cabin and out--had declared his readiness to act as she had
suggested, and to enter on his task that very day.

'I thank him from my heart,' said Helena. 'Pray tell him so.'

Again not a little confused between the Flower-garden and the
Cabin, Rosa dipped in with her message, and dipped out again with
more assurances from Mr. Tartar, and stood wavering in a divided
state between Helena and him, which proved that confusion is not
always necessarily awkward, but may sometimes present a very
pleasant appearance.

'And now, darling,' said Helena, 'we will be mindful of the caution
that has restricted us to this interview for the present, and will
part. I hear Neville moving too. Are you going back?'

'To Miss Twinkleton's?' asked Rosa.

'Yes.'

'O, I could never go there any more. I couldn't indeed, after that
dreadful interview!' said Rosa.

'Then where ARE you going, pretty one?'

'Now I come to think of it, I don't know,' said Rosa. 'I have
settled nothing at all yet, but my guardian will take care of me.
Don't be uneasy, dear. I shall be sure to be somewhere.'

(It did seem likely.)

'And I shall hear of my Rosebud from Mr. Tartar?' inquired Helena.

'Yes, I suppose so; from--' Rosa looked back again in a flutter,
instead of supplying the name. 'But tell me one thing before we
part, dearest Helena. Tell me--that you are sure, sure, sure, I
couldn't help it.'

'Help it, love?'

'Help making him malicious and revengeful. I couldn't hold any
terms with him, could I?'

'You know how I love you, darling,' answered Helena, with
indignation; 'but I would sooner see you dead at his wicked feet.'

'That's a great comfort to me! And you will tell your poor brother
so, won't you? And you will give him my remembrance and my
sympathy? And you will ask him not to hate me?'

With a mournful shake of the head, as if that would be quite a
superfluous entreaty, Helena lovingly kissed her two hands to her
friend, and her friend's two hands were kissed to her; and then she
saw a third hand (a brown one) appear among the flowers and leaves,
and help her friend out of sight.

The refection that Mr. Tartar produced in the Admiral's Cabin by
merely touching the spring knob of a locker and the handle of a
drawer, was a dazzling enchanted repast. Wonderful macaroons,
glittering liqueurs, magically-preserved tropical spices, and
jellies of celestial tropical fruits, displayed themselves
profusely at an instant's notice. But Mr. Tartar could not make
time stand still; and time, with his hard-hearted fleetness, strode
on so fast, that Rosa was obliged to come down from the bean-stalk
country to earth and her guardian's chambers.

'And now, my dear,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'what is to be done next?
To put the same thought in another form; what is to be done with
you?'

Rosa could only look apologetically sensible of being very much in
her own way and in everybody else's. Some passing idea of living,
fireproof, up a good many stairs in Furnival's Inn for the rest of
her life, was the only thing in the nature of a plan that occurred
to her.

'It has come into my thoughts,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'that as the
respected lady, Miss Twinkleton, occasionally repairs to London in
the recess, with the view of extending her connection, and being
available for interviews with metropolitan parents, if any--
whether, until we have time in which to turn ourselves round, we
might invite Miss Twinkleton to come and stay with you for a
month?'

'Stay where, sir?'

'Whether,' explained Mr. Grewgious, 'we might take a furnished
lodging in town for a month, and invite Miss Twinkleton to assume
the charge of you in it for that period?'

'And afterwards?' hinted Rosa.

'And afterwards,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'we should be no worse off
than we are now.'

'I think that might smooth the way,' assented Rosa.

'Then let us,' said Mr. Grewgious, rising, 'go and look for a
furnished lodging. Nothing could be more acceptable to me than the
sweet presence of last evening, for all the remaining evenings of
my existence; but these are not fit surroundings for a young lady.
Let us set out in quest of adventures, and look for a furnished
lodging. In the meantime, Mr. Crisparkle here, about to return
home immediately, will no doubt kindly see Miss Twinkleton, and
invite that lady to co-operate in our plan.'

Mr. Crisparkle, willingly accepting the commission, took his
departure; Mr. Grewgious and his ward set forth on their
expedition.

As Mr. Grewgious's idea of looking at a furnished lodging was to
get on the opposite side of the street to a house with a suitable
bill in the window, and stare at it; and then work his way
tortuously to the back of the house, and stare at that; and then
not go in, but make similar trials of another house, with the same
result; their progress was but slow. At length he bethought
himself of a widowed cousin, divers times removed, of Mr.
Bazzard's, who had once solicited his influence in the lodger
world, and who lived in Southampton Street, Bloomsbury Square.
This lady's name, stated in uncompromising capitals of considerable
size on a brass door-plate, and yet not lucidly as to sex or
condition, was BILLICKIN.

Personal faintness, and an overpowering personal candour, were the
distinguishing features of Mrs. Billickin's organisation. She came
languishing out of her own exclusive back parlour, with the air of
having been expressly brought-to for the purpose, from an
accumulation of several swoons.

'I hope I see you well, sir,' said Mrs. Billickin, recognising her
visitor with a bend.

'Thank you, quite well. And you, ma'am?' returned Mr. Grewgious.

'I am as well,' said Mrs. Billickin, becoming aspirational with
excess of faintness, 'as I hever ham.'

'My ward and an elderly lady,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'wish to find a
genteel lodging for a month or so. Have you any apartments
available, ma'am?'

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'I will not deceive you;
far from it. I HAVE apartments available.'

This with the air of adding: 'Convey me to the stake, if you will;
but while I live, I will be candid.'

'And now, what apartments, ma'am?' asked Mr. Grewgious, cosily. To
tame a certain severity apparent on the part of Mrs. Billickin.

'There is this sitting-room--which, call it what you will, it is
the front parlour, Miss,' said Mrs. Billickin, impressing Rosa into
the conversation: 'the back parlour being what I cling to and
never part with; and there is two bedrooms at the top of the 'ouse
with gas laid on. I do not tell you that your bedroom floors is
firm, for firm they are not. The gas-fitter himself allowed, that
to make a firm job, he must go right under your jistes, and it were
not worth the outlay as a yearly tenant so to do. The piping is
carried above your jistes, and it is best that it should be made
known to you.'

Mr. Grewgious and Rosa exchanged looks of some dismay, though they
had not the least idea what latent horrors this carriage of the
piping might involve. Mrs. Billickin put her hand to her heart, as
having eased it of a load.

'Well! The roof is all right, no doubt,' said Mr. Grewgious,
plucking up a little.

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'if I was to tell you,
sir, that to have nothink above you is to have a floor above you, I
should put a deception upon you which I will not do. No, sir.
Your slates WILL rattle loose at that elewation in windy weather,
do your utmost, best or worst! I defy you, sir, be you what you
may, to keep your slates tight, try how you can.' Here Mrs.
Billickin, having been warm with Mr. Grewgious, cooled a little,
not to abuse the moral power she held over him. 'Consequent,'
proceeded Mrs. Billickin, more mildly, but still firmly in her
incorruptible candour: 'consequent it would be worse than of no
use for me to trapse and travel up to the top of the 'ouse with
you, and for you to say, "Mrs. Billickin, what stain do I notice in
the ceiling, for a stain I do consider it?" and for me to answer,
"I do not understand you, sir." No, sir, I will not be so
underhand. I DO understand you before you pint it out. It is the
wet, sir. It do come in, and it do not come in. You may lay dry
there half your lifetime; but the time will come, and it is best
that you should know it, when a dripping sop would be no name for
you.'

Mr. Grewgious looked much disgraced by being prefigured in this
pickle.

'Have you any other apartments, ma'am?' he asked.

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, with much solemnity, 'I
have. You ask me have I, and my open and my honest answer air, I
have. The first and second floors is wacant, and sweet rooms.'

'Come, come! There's nothing against THEM,' said Mr. Grewgious,
comforting himself.

'Mr. Grewgious,' replied Mrs. Billickin, 'pardon me, there is the
stairs. Unless your mind is prepared for the stairs, it will lead
to inevitable disappointment. You cannot, Miss,' said Mrs.
Billickin, addressing Rosa reproachfully, 'place a first floor, and
far less a second, on the level footing 'of a parlour. No, you
cannot do it, Miss, it is beyond your power, and wherefore try?'

Mrs. Billickin put it very feelingly, as if Rosa had shown a
headstrong determination to hold the untenable position.

'Can we see these rooms, ma'am?' inquired her guardian.

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'you can. I will not
disguise it from you, sir; you can.'

Mrs. Billickin then sent into her back parlour for her shawl (it
being a state fiction, dating from immemorial antiquity, that she
could never go anywhere without being wrapped up), and having been
enrolled by her attendant, led the way. She made various genteel
pauses on the stairs for breath, and clutched at her heart in the
drawing-room as if it had very nearly got loose, and she had caught
it in the act of taking wing.

'And the second floor?' said Mr. Grewgious, on finding the first
satisfactory.

'Mr. Grewgious,' replied Mrs. Billickin, turning upon him with
ceremony, as if the time had now come when a distinct understanding
on a difficult point must be arrived at, and a solemn confidence
established, 'the second floor is over this.'

'Can we see that too, ma'am?'

'Yes, sir,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'it is open as the day.'

That also proving satisfactory, Mr. Grewgious retired into a window
with Rosa for a few words of consultation, and then asking for pen
and ink, sketched out a line or two of agreement. In the meantime
Mrs. Billickin took a seat, and delivered a kind of Index to, or
Abstract of, the general question.

'Five-and-forty shillings per week by the month certain at the time
of year,' said Mrs. Billickin, 'is only reasonable to both parties.
It is not Bond Street nor yet St. James's Palace; but it is not
pretended that it is. Neither is it attempted to be denied--for
why should it?--that the Arching leads to a mews. Mewses must
exist. Respecting attendance; two is kep', at liberal wages.
Words HAS arisen as to tradesmen, but dirty shoes on fresh hearth-
stoning was attributable, and no wish for a commission on your
orders. Coals is either BY the fire, or PER the scuttle.' She
emphasised the prepositions as marking a subtle but immense
difference. 'Dogs is not viewed with favour. Besides litter, they
gets stole, and sharing suspicions is apt to creep in, and
unpleasantness takes place.'

By this time Mr. Grewgious had his agreement-lines, and his
earnest-money, ready. 'I have signed it for the ladies, ma'am,' he
said, 'and you'll have the goodness to sign it for yourself,
Christian and Surname, there, if you please.'

'Mr. Grewgious,' said Mrs. Billickin in a new burst of candour,
'no, sir! You must excuse the Christian name.'

Mr. Grewgious stared at her.

'The door-plate is used as a protection,' said Mrs. Billickin, 'and
acts as such, and go from it I will not.'

Mr. Grewgious stared at Rosa.

'No, Mr. Grewgious, you must excuse me. So long as this 'ouse is
known indefinite as Billickin's, and so long as it is a doubt with
the riff-raff where Billickin may be hidin', near the street-door
or down the airy, and what his weight and size, so long I feel
safe. But commit myself to a solitary female statement, no, Miss!
Nor would you for a moment wish,' said Mrs. Billickin, with a
strong sense of injury, 'to take that advantage of your sex, if you
were not brought to it by inconsiderate example.'

Rosa reddening as if she had made some most disgraceful attempt to
overreach the good lady, besought Mr. Grewgious to rest content
with any signature. And accordingly, in a baronial way, the sign-
manual BILLICKIN got appended to the document.

Details were then settled for taking possession on the next day but
one, when Miss Twinkleton might be reasonably expected; and Rosa
went back to Furnival's Inn on her guardian's arm.

Behold Mr. Tartar walking up and down Furnival's Inn, checking
himself when he saw them coming, and advancing towards them!

'It occurred to me,' hinted Mr. Tartar, 'that we might go up the
river, the weather being so delicious and the tide serving. I have
a boat of my own at the Temple Stairs.'

'I have not been up the river for this many a day,' said Mr.
Grewgious, tempted.

'I was never up the river,' added Rosa.

Within half an hour they were setting this matter right by going up
the river. The tide was running with them, the afternoon was
charming. Mr. Tartar's boat was perfect. Mr. Tartar and Lobley
(Mr. Tartar's man) pulled a pair of oars. Mr. Tartar had a yacht,
it seemed, lying somewhere down by Greenhithe; and Mr. Tartar's man
had charge of this yacht, and was detached upon his present
service. He was a jolly-favoured man, with tawny hair and
whiskers, and a big red face. He was the dead image of the sun in
old woodcuts, his hair and whiskers answering for rays all around
him. Resplendent in the bow of the boat, he was a shining sight,
with a man-of-war's man's shirt on--or off, according to opinion--
and his arms and breast tattooed all sorts of patterns. Lobley
seemed to take it easily, and so did Mr. Tartar; yet their oars
bent as they pulled, and the boat bounded under them. Mr. Tartar
talked as if he were doing nothing, to Rosa who was really doing
nothing, and to Mr. Grewgious who was doing this much that he
steered all wrong; but what did that matter, when a turn of Mr.
Tartar's skilful wrist, or a mere grin of Mr. Lobley's over the
bow, put all to rights! The tide bore them on in the gayest and
most sparkling manner, until they stopped to dine in some ever-
lastingly-green garden, needing no matter-of-fact identification
here; and then the tide obligingly turned--being devoted to that
party alone for that day; and as they floated idly among some
osier-beds, Rosa tried what she could do in the rowing way, and
came off splendidly, being much assisted; and Mr. Grewgious tried
what he could do, and came off on his back, doubled up with an oar
under his chin, being not assisted at all. Then there was an
interval of rest under boughs (such rest!) what time Mr. Lobley
mopped, and, arranging cushions, stretchers, and the like, danced
the tight-rope the whole length of the boat like a man to whom
shoes were a superstition and stockings slavery; and then came the
sweet return among delicious odours of limes in bloom, and musical
ripplings; and, all too soon, the great black city cast its shadow
on the waters, and its dark bridges spanned them as death spans
life, and the everlastingly-green garden seemed to be left for
everlasting, unregainable and far away.

'Cannot people get through life without gritty stages, I wonder?'
Rosa thought next day, when the town was very gritty again, and
everything had a strange and an uncomfortable appearance of seeming
to wait for something that wouldn't come. NO. She began to think,
that, now the Cloisterham school-days had glided past and gone, the
gritty stages would begin to set in at intervals and make
themselves wearily known!

Yet what did Rosa expect? Did she expect Miss Twinkleton? Miss
Twinkleton duly came. Forth from her back parlour issued the
Billickin to receive Miss Twinkleton, and War was in the
Billickin's eye from that fell moment.

Miss Twinkleton brought a quantity of luggage with her, having all
Rosa's as well as her own. The Billickin took it ill that Miss
Twinkleton's mind, being sorely disturbed by this luggage, failed
to take in her personal identity with that clearness of perception
which was due to its demands. Stateliness mounted her gloomy
throne upon the Billickin's brow in consequence. And when Miss
Twinkleton, in agitation taking stock of her trunks and packages,
of which she had seventeen, particularly counted in the Billickin
herself as number eleven, the B. found it necessary to repudiate.

'Things cannot too soon be put upon the footing,' said she, with a
candour so demonstrative as to be almost obtrusive, 'that the
person of the 'ouse is not a box nor yet a bundle, nor a carpet-
bag. No, I am 'ily obleeged to you, Miss Twinkleton, nor yet a
beggar.'

This last disclaimer had reference to Miss Twinkleton's
distractedly pressing two-and-sixpence on her, instead of the
cabman.

Thus cast off, Miss Twinkleton wildly inquired, 'which gentleman'
was to be paid? There being two gentlemen in that position (Miss
Twinkleton having arrived with two cabs), each gentleman on being
paid held forth his two-and-sixpence on the flat of his open hand,
and, with a speechless stare and a dropped jaw, displayed his wrong
to heaven and earth. Terrified by this alarming spectacle, Miss
Twinkleton placed another shilling in each hand; at the same time
appealing to the law in flurried accents, and recounting her
luggage this time with the two gentlemen in, who caused the total
to come out complicated. Meanwhile the two gentlemen, each looking
very hard at the last shilling grumblingly, as if it might become
eighteen-pence if he kept his eyes on it, descended the doorsteps,
ascended their carriages, and drove away, leaving Miss Twinkleton
on a bonnet-box in tears.

The Billickin beheld this manifestation of weakness without
sympathy, and gave directions for 'a young man to be got in' to
wrestle with the luggage. When that gladiator had disappeared from
the arena, peace ensued, and the new lodgers dined.

But the Billickin had somehow come to the knowledge that Miss
Twinkleton kept a school. The leap from that knowledge to the
inference that Miss Twinkleton set herself to teach HER something,
was easy. 'But you don't do it,' soliloquised the Billickin; 'I am
not your pupil, whatever she,' meaning Rosa, 'may be, poor thing!'

Miss Twinkleton, on the other hand, having changed her dress and
recovered her spirits, was animated by a bland desire to improve
the occasion in all ways, and to be as serene a model as possible.
In a happy compromise between her two states of existence, she had
already become, with her workbasket before her, the equably
vivacious companion with a slight judicious flavouring of
information, when the Billickin announced herself.

'I will not hide from you, ladies,' said the B., enveloped in the
shawl of state, 'for it is not my character to hide neither my
motives nor my actions, that I take the liberty to look in upon you
to express a 'ope that your dinner was to your liking. Though not
Professed but Plain, still her wages should be a sufficient object
to her to stimilate to soar above mere roast and biled.'

'We dined very well indeed,' said Rosa, 'thank you.'

'Accustomed,' said Miss Twinkleton with a gracious air, which to
the jealous ears of the Billickin seemed to add 'my good woman'--
'accustomed to a liberal and nutritious, yet plain and salutary
diet, we have found no reason to bemoan our absence from the
ancient city, and the methodical household, in which the quiet
routine of our lot has been hitherto cast.'

'I did think it well to mention to my cook,' observed the Billickin
with a gush of candour, 'which I 'ope you will agree with, Miss
Twinkleton, was a right precaution, that the young lady being used
to what we should consider here but poor diet, had better be
brought forward by degrees. For, a rush from scanty feeding to
generous feeding, and from what you may call messing to what you
may call method, do require a power of constitution which is not
often found in youth, particular when undermined by boarding-
school!'

It will be seen that the Billickin now openly pitted herself
against Miss Twinkleton, as one whom she had fully ascertained to
be her natural enemy.

'Your remarks,' returned Miss Twinkleton, from a remote moral
eminence, 'are well meant, I have no doubt; but you will permit me
to observe that they develop a mistaken view of the subject, which
can only be imputed to your extreme want of accurate information.'

'My informiation,' retorted the Billickin, throwing in an extra
syllable for the sake of emphasis at once polite and powerful--'my
informiation, Miss Twinkleton, were my own experience, which I
believe is usually considered to be good guidance. But whether so
or not, I was put in youth to a very genteel boarding-school, the
mistress being no less a lady than yourself, of about your own age
or it may be some years younger, and a poorness of blood flowed
from the table which has run through my life.'

'Very likely,' said Miss Twinkleton, still from her distant
eminence; 'and very much to be deplored.--Rosa, my dear, how are
you getting on with your work?'

'Miss Twinkleton,' resumed the Billickin, in a courtly manner,
'before retiring on the 'int, as a lady should, I wish to ask of
yourself, as a lady, whether I am to consider that my words is
doubted?'

'I am not aware on what ground you cherish such a supposition,'
began Miss Twinkleton, when the Billickin neatly stopped her.

'Do not, if you please, put suppositions betwixt my lips where none
such have been imparted by myself. Your flow of words is great,
Miss Twinkleton, and no doubt is expected from you by your pupils,
and no doubt is considered worth the money. NO doubt, I am sure.
But not paying for flows of words, and not asking to be favoured
with them here, I wish to repeat my question.'

'If you refer to the poverty of your circulation,' began Miss
Twinkleton, when again the Billickin neatly stopped her.

'I have used no such expressions.'

'If you refer, then, to the poorness of your blood--'

'Brought upon me,' stipulated the Billickin, expressly, 'at a
boarding-school--'

'Then,' resumed Miss Twinkleton, 'all I can say is, that I am bound
to believe, on your asseveration, that it is very poor indeed. I
cannot forbear adding, that if that unfortunate circumstance
influences your conversation, it is much to be lamented, and it is
eminently desirable that your blood were richer.--Rosa, my dear,
how are you getting on with your work?'

'Hem! Before retiring, Miss,' proclaimed the Billickin to Rosa,
loftily cancelling Miss Twinkleton, 'I should wish it to be
understood between yourself and me that my transactions in future
is with you alone. I know no elderly lady here, Miss, none older
than yourself.'

'A highly desirable arrangement, Rosa my dear,' observed Miss
Twinkleton.

'It is not, Miss,' said the Billickin, with a sarcastic smile,
'that I possess the Mill I have heard of, in which old single
ladies could be ground up young (what a gift it would be to some of
us), but that I limit myself to you totally.'

'When I have any desire to communicate a request to the person of
the house, Rosa my dear,' observed Miss Twinkleton with majestic
cheerfulness, 'I will make it known to you, and you will kindly
undertake, I am sure, that it is conveyed to the proper quarter.'

'Good-evening, Miss,' said the Billickin, at once affectionately
and distantly. 'Being alone in my eyes, I wish you good-evening
with best wishes, and do not find myself drove, I am truly 'appy to
say, into expressing my contempt for an indiwidual, unfortunately
for yourself, belonging to you.'

The Billickin gracefully withdrew with this parting speech, and
from that time Rosa occupied the restless position of shuttlecock
between these two battledores. Nothing could be done without a
smart match being played out. Thus, on the daily-arising question
of dinner, Miss Twinkleton would say, the three being present
together:

'Perhaps, my love, you will consult with the person of the house,
whether she can procure us a lamb's fry; or, failing that, a roast
fowl.'

On which the Billickin would retort (Rosa not having spoken a
word), 'If you was better accustomed to butcher's meat, Miss, you
would not entertain the idea of a lamb's fry. Firstly, because
lambs has long been sheep, and secondly, because there is such
things as killing-days, and there is not. As to roast fowls, Miss,
why you must be quite surfeited with roast fowls, letting alone
your buying, when you market for yourself, the agedest of poultry
with the scaliest of legs, quite as if you was accustomed to
picking 'em out for cheapness. Try a little inwention, Miss. Use
yourself to 'ousekeeping a bit. Come now, think of somethink
else.'

To this encouragement, offered with the indulgent toleration of a
wise and liberal expert, Miss Twinkleton would rejoin, reddening:

'Or, my dear, you might propose to the person of the house a duck.'

'Well, Miss!' the Billickin would exclaim (still no word being
spoken by Rosa), 'you do surprise me when you speak of ducks! Not
to mention that they're getting out of season and very dear, it
really strikes to my heart to see you have a duck; for the breast,
which is the only delicate cuts in a duck, always goes in a
direction which I cannot imagine where, and your own plate comes
down so miserably skin-and-bony! Try again, Miss. Think more of
yourself, and less of others. A dish of sweetbreads now, or a bit
of mutton. Something at which you can get your equal chance.'

Occasionally the game would wax very brisk indeed, and would be
kept up with a smartness rendering such an encounter as this quite
tame. But the Billickin almost invariably made by far the higher
score; and would come in with side hits of the most unexpected and
extraordinary description, when she seemed without a chance.

All this did not improve the gritty state of things in London, or
the air that London had acquired in Rosa's eyes of waiting for
something that never came. Tired of working, and conversing with
Miss Twinkleton, she suggested working and reading: to which Miss
Twinkleton readily assented, as an admirable reader, of tried
powers. But Rosa soon made the discovery that Miss Twinkleton
didn't read fairly. She cut the love-scenes, interpolated passages
in praise of female celibacy, and was guilty of other glaring pious
frauds. As an instance in point, take the glowing passage: 'Ever
dearest and best adored,--said Edward, clasping the dear head to
his breast, and drawing the silken hair through his caressing
fingers, from which he suffered it to fall like golden rain,--ever
dearest and best adored, let us fly from the unsympathetic world
and the sterile coldness of the stony-hearted, to the rich warm
Paradise of Trust and Love.' Miss Twinkleton's fraudulent version
tamely ran thus: 'Ever engaged to me with the consent of our
parents on both sides, and the approbation of the silver-haired
rector of the district,--said Edward, respectfully raising to his
lips the taper fingers so skilful in embroidery, tambour, crochet,
and other truly feminine arts,--let me call on thy papa ere to-
morrow's dawn has sunk into the west, and propose a suburban
establishment, lowly it may be, but within our means, where he will
be always welcome as an evening guest, and where every arrangement
shall invest economy, and constant interchange of scholastic
acquirements with the attributes of the ministering angel to
domestic bliss.'

As the days crept on and nothing happened, the neighbours began to
say that the pretty girl at Billickin's, who looked so wistfully
and so much out of the gritty windows of the drawing-room, seemed
to be losing her spirits. The pretty girl might have lost them but
for the accident of lighting on some books of voyages and sea-
adventure. As a compensation against their romance, Miss
Twinkleton, reading aloud, made the most of all the latitudes and
longitudes, bearings, winds, currents, offsets, and other
statistics (which she felt to be none the less improving because
they expressed nothing whatever to her); while Rosa, listening
intently, made the most of what was nearest to her heart. So they
both did better than before.

CHAPTER XXIII--THE DAWN AGAIN

Although Mr. Crisparkle and John Jasper met daily under the
Cathedral roof, nothing at any time passed between them having
reference to Edwin Drood, after the time, more than half a year
gone by, when Jasper mutely showed the Minor Canon the conclusion
and the resolution entered in his Diary. It is not likely that
they ever met, though so often, without the thoughts of each
reverting to the subject. It is not likely that they ever met,
though so often, without a sensation on the part of each that the
other was a perplexing secret to him. Jasper as the denouncer and
pursuer of Neville Landless, and Mr. Crisparkle as his consistent
advocate and protector, must at least have stood sufficiently in
opposition to have speculated with keen interest on the steadiness
and next direction of the other's designs. But neither ever
broached the theme.

False pretence not being in the Minor Canon's nature, he doubtless
displayed openly that he would at any time have revived the
subject, and even desired to discuss it. The determined reticence
of Jasper, however, was not to be so approached. Impassive, moody,
solitary, resolute, so concentrated on one idea, and on its
attendant fixed purpose, that he would share it with no fellow-
creature, he lived apart from human life. Constantly exercising an
Art which brought him into mechanical harmony with others, and
which could not have been pursued unless he and they had been in
the nicest mechanical relations and unison, it is curious to
consider that the spirit of the man was in moral accordance or
interchange with nothing around him. This indeed he had confided
to his lost nephew, before the occasion for his present
inflexibility arose.

That he must know of Rosa's abrupt departure, and that he must
divine its cause, was not to be doubted. Did he suppose that he
had terrified her into silence? or did he suppose that she had
imparted to any one--to Mr. Crisparkle himself, for instance--the
particulars of his last interview with her? Mr. Crisparkle could
not determine this in his mind. He could not but admit, however,
as a just man, that it was not, of itself, a crime to fall in love
with Rosa, any more than it was a crime to offer to set love above
revenge.

The dreadful suspicion of Jasper, which Rosa was so shocked to have
received into her imagination, appeared to have no harbour in Mr.
Crisparkle's. If it ever haunted Helena's thoughts or Neville's,
neither gave it one spoken word of utterance. Mr. Grewgious took
no pains to conceal his implacable dislike of Jasper, yet he never
referred it, however distantly, to such a source. But he was a
reticent as well as an eccentric man; and he made no mention of a
certain evening when he warmed his hands at the gatehouse fire, and
looked steadily down upon a certain heap of torn and miry clothes
upon the floor.

Drowsy Cloisterham, whenever it awoke to a passing reconsideration
of a story above six months old and dismissed by the bench of
magistrates, was pretty equally divided in opinion whether John
Jasper's beloved nephew had been killed by his treacherously
passionate rival, or in an open struggle; or had, for his own
purposes, spirited himself away. It then lifted up its head, to
notice that the bereaved Jasper was still ever devoted to discovery
and revenge; and then dozed off again. This was the condition of
matters, all round, at the period to which the present history has
now attained.

The Cathedral doors have closed for the night; and the Choir-
master, on a short leave of absence for two or three services, sets
his face towards London. He travels thither by the means by which
Rosa travelled, and arrives, as Rosa arrived, on a hot, dusty
evening.

His travelling baggage is easily carried in his hand, and he
repairs with it on foot, to a hybrid hotel in a little square
behind Aldersgate Street, near the General Post Office. It is
hotel, boarding-house, or lodging-house, at its visitor's option.
It announces itself, in the new Railway Advertisers, as a novel
enterprise, timidly beginning to spring up. It bashfully, almost
apologetically, gives the traveller to understand that it does not
expect him, on the good old constitutional hotel plan, to order a
pint of sweet blacking for his drinking, and throw it away; but
insinuates that he may have his boots blacked instead of his
stomach, and maybe also have bed, breakfast, attendance, and a
porter up all night, for a certain fixed charge. From these and
similar premises, many true Britons in the lowest spirits deduce
that the times are levelling times, except in the article of high
roads, of which there will shortly be not one in England.

He eats without appetite, and soon goes forth again. Eastward and
still eastward through the stale streets he takes his way, until he
reaches his destination: a miserable court, specially miserable
among many such.

He ascends a broken staircase, opens a door, looks into a dark
stifling room, and says: 'Are you alone here?'

'Alone, deary; worse luck for me, and better for you,' replies a
croaking voice. 'Come in, come in, whoever you be: I can't see
you till I light a match, yet I seem to know the sound of your
speaking. I'm acquainted with you, ain't I?'

'Light your match, and try.'

'So I will, deary, so I will; but my hand that shakes, as I can't
lay it on a match all in a moment. And I cough so, that, put my
matches where I may, I never find 'em there. They jump and start,
as I cough and cough, like live things. Are you off a voyage,
deary?'

'No.'

'Not seafaring?'

'No.'

'Well, there's land customers, and there's water customers. I'm a
mother to both. Different from Jack Chinaman t'other side the
court. He ain't a father to neither. It ain't in him. And he
ain't got the true secret of mixing, though he charges as much as
me that has, and more if he can get it. Here's a match, and now
where's the candle? If my cough takes me, I shall cough out twenty
matches afore I gets a light.'

But she finds the candle, and lights it, before the cough comes on.
It seizes her in the moment of success, and she sits down rocking
herself to and fro, and gasping at intervals: 'O, my lungs is
awful bad! my lungs is wore away to cabbage-nets!' until the fit is
over. During its continuance she has had no power of sight, or any
other power not absorbed in the struggle; but as it leaves her, she
begins to strain her eyes, and as soon as she is able to
articulate, she cries, staring:

'Why, it's you!'

'Are you so surprised to see me?'

'I thought I never should have seen you again, deary. I thought
you was dead, and gone to Heaven.'

'Why?'

'I didn't suppose you could have kept away, alive, so long, from
the poor old soul with the real receipt for mixing it. And you are
in mourning too! Why didn't you come and have a pipe or two of
comfort? Did they leave you money, perhaps, and so you didn't want
comfort?'

' No.'

'Who was they as died, deary?'

'A relative.'

'Died of what, lovey?'

'Probably, Death.'

'We are short to-night!' cries the woman, with a propitiatory
laugh. 'Short and snappish we are! But we're out of sorts for
want of a smoke. We've got the all-overs, haven't us, deary? But
this is the place to cure 'em in; this is the place where the all-
overs is smoked off.'

'You may make ready, then,' replies the visitor, 'as soon as you
like.'

He divests himself of his shoes, loosens his cravat, and lies
across the foot of the squalid bed, with his head resting on his
left hand.

'Now you begin to look like yourself,' says the woman approvingly.
'Now I begin to know my old customer indeed! Been trying to mix
for yourself this long time, poppet?'

'I have been taking it now and then in my own way.'

'Never take it your own way. It ain't good for trade, and it ain't
good for you. Where's my ink-bottle, and where's my thimble, and
where's my little spoon? He's going to take it in a artful form
now, my deary dear!'

Entering on her process, and beginning to bubble and blow at the
faint spark enclosed in the hollow of her hands, she speaks from
time to time, in a tone of snuffling satisfaction, without leaving
off. When he speaks, he does so without looking at her, and as if
his thoughts were already roaming away by anticipation.

'I've got a pretty many smokes ready for you, first and last,
haven't I, chuckey?'

'A good many.'

'When you first come, you was quite new to it; warn't ye?'

'Yes, I was easily disposed of, then.'

'But you got on in the world, and was able by-and-by to take your
pipe with the best of 'em, warn't ye?'

'Ah; and the worst.'

'It's just ready for you. What a sweet singer you was when you
first come! Used to drop your head, and sing yourself off like a
bird! It's ready for you now, deary.'

He takes it from her with great care, and puts the mouthpiece to
his lips. She seats herself beside him, ready to refill the pipe.

After inhaling a few whiffs in silence, he doubtingly accosts her
with:

'Is it as potent as it used to be?'

'What do you speak of, deary?'

'What should I speak of, but what I have in my mouth?'

'It's just the same. Always the identical same.'

'It doesn't taste so. And it's slower.'

'You've got more used to it, you see.'

'That may be the cause, certainly. Look here.' He stops, becomes
dreamy, and seems to forget that he has invited her attention. She
bends over him, and speaks in his ear.

'I'm attending to you. Says you just now, Look here. Says I now,
I'm attending to ye. We was talking just before of your being used
to it.'

'I know all that. I was only thinking. Look here. Suppose you
had something in your mind; something you were going to do.'

'Yes, deary; something I was going to do?'

'But had not quite determined to do.'

'Yes, deary.'

'Might or might not do, you understand.'

'Yes.' With the point of a needle she stirs the contents of the
bowl.

'Should you do it in your fancy, when you were lying here doing
this?'

She nods her head. 'Over and over again.'

'Just like me! I did it over and over again. I have done it
hundreds of thousands of times in this room.'

'It's to be hoped it was pleasant to do, deary.'

'It WAS pleasant to do!'

He says this with a savage air, and a spring or start at her.
Quite unmoved she retouches and replenishes the contents of the
bowl with her little spatula. Seeing her intent upon the
occupation, he sinks into his former attitude.

'It was a journey, a difficult and dangerous journey. That was the
subject in my mind. A hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses
where a slip would be destruction. Look down, look down! You see
what lies at the bottom there?'

He has darted forward to say it, and to point at the ground, as
though at some imaginary object far beneath. The woman looks at
him, as his spasmodic face approaches close to hers, and not at his
pointing. She seems to know what the influence of her perfect
quietude would be; if so, she has not miscalculated it, for he
subsides again.

'Well; I have told you I did it here hundreds of thousands of
times. What do I say? I did it millions and billions of times. I
did it so often, and through such vast expanses of time, that when
it was really done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so
soon.'

'That's the journey you have been away upon,' she quietly remarks.

He glares at her as he smokes; and then, his eyes becoming filmy,
answers: 'That's the journey.'

Silence ensues. His eyes are sometimes closed and sometimes open.
The woman sits beside him, very attentive to the pipe, which is all
the while at his lips.

'I'll warrant,' she observes, when he has been looking fixedly at
her for some consecutive moments, with a singular appearance in his
eyes of seeming to see her a long way off, instead of so near him:
'I'll warrant you made the journey in a many ways, when you made it
so often?'

'No, always in one way.'

'Always in the same way?'

'Ay.'

'In the way in which it was really made at last?'

'Ay.'

'And always took the same pleasure in harping on it?'

'Ay.'

For the time he appears unequal to any other reply than this lazy
monosyllabic assent. Probably to assure herself that it is not the
assent of a mere automaton, she reverses the form of her next
sentence.

'Did you never get tired of it, deary, and try to call up something
else for a change?'

He struggles into a sitting posture, and retorts upon her: 'What
do you mean? What did I want? What did I come for?'

She gently lays him back again, and before returning him the
instrument he has dropped, revives the fire in it with her own
breath; then says to him, coaxingly:

'Sure, sure, sure! Yes, yes, yes! Now I go along with you. You
was too quick for me. I see now. You come o' purpose to take the
journey. Why, I might have known it, through its standing by you
so.'

He answers first with a laugh, and then with a passionate setting
of his teeth: 'Yes, I came on purpose. When I could not bear my
life, I came to get the relief, and I got it. It WAS one! It WAS
one!' This repetition with extraordinary vehemence, and the snarl
of a wolf.

She observes him very cautiously, as though mentally feeling her
way to her next remark. It is: 'There was a fellow-traveller,
deary.'

'Ha, ha, ha!' He breaks into a ringing laugh, or rather yell.

'To think,' he cries, 'how often fellow-traveller, and yet not know
it! To think how many times he went the journey, and never saw the
road!'

The woman kneels upon the floor, with her arms crossed on the
coverlet of the bed, close by him, and her chin upon them. In this
crouching attitude she watches him. The pipe is falling from his
mouth. She puts it back, and laying her hand upon his chest, moves
him slightly from side to side. Upon that he speaks, as if she had
spoken.

'Yes! I always made the journey first, before the changes of
colours and the great landscapes and glittering processions began.
They couldn't begin till it was off my mind. I had no room till
then for anything else.'

Once more he lapses into silence. Once more she lays her hand upon
his chest, and moves him slightly to and fro, as a cat might
stimulate a half-slain mouse. Once more he speaks, as if she had
spoken.

'What? I told you so. When it comes to be real at last, it is so
short that it seems unreal for the first time. Hark!'

'Yes, deary. I'm listening.'

'Time and place are both at hand.'

He is on his feet, speaking in a whisper, and as if in the dark.

'Time, place, and fellow-traveller,' she suggests, adopting his
tone, and holding him softly by the arm.

'How could the time be at hand unless the fellow-traveller was?
Hush! The journey's made. It's over.'

'So soon?'

'That's what I said to you. So soon. Wait a little. This is a
vision. I shall sleep it off. It has been too short and easy. I
must have a better vision than this; this is the poorest of all.
No struggle, no consciousness of peril, no entreaty--and yet I
never saw THAT before.' With a start.

'Saw what, deary?'

'Look at it! Look what a poor, mean, miserable thing it is! THAT
must be real. It's over.'

He has accompanied this incoherence with some wild unmeaning
gestures; but they trail off into the progressive inaction of
stupor, and he lies a log upon the bed.

The woman, however, is still inquisitive. With a repetition of her
cat-like action she slightly stirs his body again, and listens;
stirs again, and listens; whispers to it, and listens. Finding it
past all rousing for the time, she slowly gets upon her feet, with
an air of disappointment, and flicks the face with the back of her
hand in turning from it.

But she goes no further away from it than the chair upon the
hearth. She sits in it, with an elbow on one of its arms, and her
chin upon her hand, intent upon him. 'I heard ye say once,' she
croaks under her breath, 'I heard ye say once, when I was lying
where you're lying, and you were making your speculations upon me,
"Unintelligible!" I heard you say so, of two more than me. But
don't ye be too sure always; don't be ye too sure, beauty!'

Unwinking, cat-like, and intent, she presently adds: 'Not so
potent as it once was? Ah! Perhaps not at first. You may be more
right there. Practice makes perfect. I may have learned the
secret how to make ye talk, deary.'

He talks no more, whether or no. Twitching in an ugly way from
time to time, both as to his face and limbs, he lies heavy and
silent. The wretched candle burns down; the woman takes its
expiring end between her fingers, lights another at it, crams the
guttering frying morsel deep into the candlestick, and rams it home
with the new candle, as if she were loading some ill-savoured and
unseemly weapon of witchcraft; the new candle in its turn burns
down; and still he lies insensible. At length what remains of the
last candle is blown out, and daylight looks into the room.

It has not looked very long, when he sits up, chilled and shaking,
slowly recovers consciousness of where he is, and makes himself
ready to depart. The woman receives what he pays her with a
grateful, 'Bless ye, bless ye, deary!' and seems, tired out, to
begin making herself ready for sleep as he leaves the room.

But seeming may be false or true. It is false in this case; for,
the moment the stairs have ceased to creak under his tread, she
glides after him, muttering emphatically: 'I'll not miss ye
twice!'

There is no egress from the court but by its entrance. With a
weird peep from the doorway, she watches for his looking back. He
does not look back before disappearing, with a wavering step. She
follows him, peeps from the court, sees him still faltering on
without looking back, and holds him in view.

He repairs to the back of Aldersgate Street, where a door
immediately opens to his knocking. She crouches in another
doorway, watching that one, and easily comprehending that he puts
up temporarily at that house. Her patience is unexhausted by
hours. For sustenance she can, and does, buy bread within a
hundred yards, and milk as it is carried past her.

He comes forth again at noon, having changed his dress, but
carrying nothing in his hand, and having nothing carried for him.
He is not going back into the country, therefore, just yet. She
follows him a little way, hesitates, instantaneously turns
confidently, and goes straight into the house he has quitted.

'Is the gentleman from Cloisterham indoors?

'Just gone out.'

'Unlucky. When does the gentleman return to Cloisterham?'

'At six this evening.'

'Bless ye and thank ye. May the Lord prosper a business where a
civil question, even from a poor soul, is so civilly answered!'

'I'll not miss ye twice!' repeats the poor soul in the street, and
not so civilly. 'I lost ye last, where that omnibus you got into
nigh your journey's end plied betwixt the station and the place. I
wasn't so much as certain that you even went right on to the place.
Now I know ye did. My gentleman from Cloisterham, I'll be there
before ye, and bide your coming. I've swore my oath that I'll not
miss ye twice!'

Accordingly, that same evening the poor soul stands in Cloisterham
High Street, looking at the many quaint gables of the Nuns' House,
and getting through the time as she best can until nine o'clock; at
which hour she has reason to suppose that the arriving omnibus
passengers may have some interest for her. The friendly darkness,
at that hour, renders it easy for her to ascertain whether this be
so or not; and it is so, for the passenger not to be missed twice
arrives among the rest.

'Now let me see what becomes of you. Go on!'

An observation addressed to the air, and yet it might be addressed
to the passenger, so compliantly does he go on along the High
Street until he comes to an arched gateway, at which he
unexpectedly vanishes. The poor soul quickens her pace; is swift,
and close upon him entering under the gateway; but only sees a
postern staircase on one side of it, and on the other side an
ancient vaulted room, in which a large-headed, gray-haired
gentleman is writing, under the odd circumstances of sitting open
to the thoroughfare and eyeing all who pass, as if he were toll-
taker of the gateway: though the way is free.

'Halloa!' he cries in a low voice, seeing her brought to a stand-
still: 'who are you looking for?'

'There was a gentleman passed in here this minute, sir.'

'Of course there was. What do you want with him?'

'Where do he live, deary?'

'Live? Up that staircase.'

'Bless ye! Whisper. What's his name, deary?'

'Surname Jasper, Christian name John. Mr. John Jasper.'

'Has he a calling, good gentleman?'

'Calling? Yes. Sings in the choir.'

'In the spire?'

'Choir.'

'What's that?'

Mr. Datchery rises from his papers, and comes to his doorstep. 'Do
you know what a cathedral is?' he asks, jocosely.

The woman nods.

'What is it?'

She looks puzzled, casting about in her mind to find a definition,
when it occurs to her that it is easier to point out the
substantial object itself, massive against the dark-blue sky and
the early stars.

'That's the answer. Go in there at seven to-morrow morning, and
you may see Mr. John Jasper, and hear him too.'

'Thank ye! Thank ye!'

The burst of triumph in which she thanks him does not escape the
notice of the single buffer of an easy temper living idly on his
means. He glances at her; clasps his hands behind him, as the wont
of such buffers is; and lounges along the echoing Precincts at her
side.

'Or,' he suggests, with a backward hitch of his head, 'you can go
up at once to Mr. Jasper's rooms there.'

The woman eyes him with a cunning smile, and shakes her head.

'O! you don't want to speak to him?'

She repeats her dumb reply, and forms with her lips a soundless
'No.'

'You can admire him at a distance three times a day, whenever you
like. It's a long way to come for that, though.'

The woman looks up quickly. If Mr. Datchery thinks she is to be so
induced to declare where she comes from, he is of a much easier
temper than she is. But she acquits him of such an artful thought,
as he lounges along, like the chartered bore of the city, with his
uncovered gray hair blowing about, and his purposeless hands
rattling the loose money in the pockets of his trousers.

The chink of the money has an attraction for her greedy ears.
'Wouldn't you help me to pay for my traveller's lodging, dear
gentleman, and to pay my way along? I am a poor soul, I am indeed,
and troubled with a grievous cough.'

'You know the travellers' lodging, I perceive, and are making
directly for it,' is Mr. Datchery's bland comment, still rattling
his loose money. 'Been here often, my good woman?'

'Once in all my life.'

'Ay, ay?'

They have arrived at the entrance to the Monks' Vineyard. An
appropriate remembrance, presenting an exemplary model for
imitation, is revived in the woman's mind by the sight of the
place. She stops at the gate, and says energetically:

'By this token, though you mayn't believe it, That a young
gentleman gave me three-and-sixpence as I was coughing my breath
away on this very grass. I asked him for three-and-sixpence, and
he gave it me.'

'Wasn't it a little cool to name your sum?' hints Mr. Datchery,
still rattling. 'Isn't it customary to leave the amount open?
Mightn't it have had the appearance, to the young gentleman--only
the appearance--that he was rather dictated to?'

'Look'ee here, deary,' she replies, in a confidential and
persuasive tone, 'I wanted the money to lay it out on a medicine as
does me good, and as I deal in. I told the young gentleman so, and
he gave it me, and I laid it out honest to the last brass farden.
I want to lay out the same sum in the same way now; and if you'll
give it me, I'll lay it out honest to the last brass farden again,
upon my soul!'

'What's the medicine?'

'I'll be honest with you beforehand, as well as after. It's
opium.'

Mr. Datchery, with a sudden change of countenance, gives her a
sudden look.

'It's opium, deary. Neither more nor less. And it's like a human
creetur so far, that you always hear what can be said against it,
but seldom what can be said in its praise.'

Mr. Datchery begins very slowly to count out the sum demanded of
him. Greedily watching his hands, she continues to hold forth on
the great example set him.

'It was last Christmas Eve, just arter dark, the once that I was
here afore, when the young gentleman gave me the three-and-six.'
Mr. Datchery stops in his counting, finds he has counted wrong,
shakes his money together, and begins again.

'And the young gentleman's name,' she adds, 'was Edwin.'

Mr. Datchery drops some money, stoops to pick it up, and reddens
with the exertion as he asks:

'How do you know the young gentleman's name?'

'I asked him for it, and he told it me. I only asked him the two
questions, what was his Chris'en name, and whether he'd a
sweetheart? And he answered, Edwin, and he hadn't.'

Mr. Datchery pauses with the selected coins in his hand, rather as
if he were falling into a brown study of their value, and couldn't
bear to part with them. The woman looks at him distrustfully, and
with her anger brewing for the event of his thinking better of the
gift; but he bestows it on her as if he were abstracting his mind
from the sacrifice, and with many servile thanks she goes her way.

John Jasper's lamp is kindled, and his lighthouse is shining when
Mr. Datchery returns alone towards it. As mariners on a dangerous
voyage, approaching an iron-bound coast, may look along the beams
of the warning light to the haven lying beyond it that may never be
reached, so Mr. Datchery's wistful gaze is directed to this beacon,
and beyond.

His object in now revisiting his lodging is merely to put on the
hat which seems so superfluous an article in his wardrobe. It is
half-past ten by the Cathedral clock when he walks out into the
Precincts again; he lingers and looks about him, as though, the
enchanted hour when Mr. Durdles may be stoned home having struck,
he had some expectation of seeing the Imp who is appointed to the
mission of stoning him.

In effect, that Power of Evil is abroad. Having nothing living to
stone at the moment, he is discovered by Mr. Datchery in the unholy
office of stoning the dead, through the railings of the churchyard.
The Imp finds this a relishing and piquing pursuit; firstly,
because their resting-place is announced to be sacred; and
secondly, because the tall headstones are sufficiently like
themselves, on their beat in the dark, to justify the delicious
fancy that they are hurt when hit.

Mr. Datchery hails with him: 'Halloa, Winks!'

He acknowledges the hail with: 'Halloa, Dick!' Their acquaintance
seemingly having been established on a familiar footing.

'But, I say,' he remonstrates, 'don't yer go a-making my name
public. I never means to plead to no name, mind yer. When they
says to me in the Lock-up, a-going to put me down in the book,
"What's your name?" I says to them, "Find out." Likewise when they
says, "What's your religion?" I says, "Find out."'

Which, it may be observed in passing, it would be immensely
difficult for the State, however statistical, to do.

'Asides which,' adds the boy, 'there ain't no family of Winkses.'

'I think there must be.'

'Yer lie, there ain't. The travellers give me the name on account
of my getting no settled sleep and being knocked up all night;
whereby I gets one eye roused open afore I've shut the other.
That's what Winks means. Deputy's the nighest name to indict me
by: but yer wouldn't catch me pleading to that, neither.'

'Deputy be it always, then. We two are good friends; eh, Deputy?'

'Jolly good.'

'I forgave you the debt you owed me when we first became
acquainted, and many of my sixpences have come your way since; eh,
Deputy?'

'Ah! And what's more, yer ain't no friend o' Jarsper's. What did
he go a-histing me off my legs for?'

'What indeed! But never mind him now. A shilling of mine is going
your way to-night, Deputy. You have just taken in a lodger I have
been speaking to; an infirm woman with a cough.'

'Puffer,' assents Deputy, with a shrewd leer of recognition, and
smoking an imaginary pipe, with his head very much on one side and
his eyes very much out of their places: 'Hopeum Puffer.'

'What is her name?'

''Er Royal Highness the Princess Puffer.'

'She has some other name than that; where does she live?'

'Up in London. Among the Jacks.'

'The sailors?'

'I said so; Jacks; and Chayner men: and hother Knifers.'

'I should like to know, through you, exactly where she lives.'

'All right. Give us 'old.'

A shilling passes; and, in that spirit of confidence which should
pervade all business transactions between principals of honour,
this piece of business is considered done.

'But here's a lark!' cries Deputy. 'Where did yer think 'Er Royal
Highness is a-goin' to to-morrow morning? Blest if she ain't a-
goin' to the KIN-FREE-DER-EL!' He greatly prolongs the word in his
ecstasy, and smites his leg, and doubles himself up in a fit of
shrill laughter.

'How do you know that, Deputy?'

'Cos she told me so just now. She said she must be hup and hout o'
purpose. She ses, "Deputy, I must 'ave a early wash, and make
myself as swell as I can, for I'm a-goin' to take a turn at the
KIN-FREE-DER-EL!"' He separates the syllables with his former
zest, and, not finding his sense of the ludicrous sufficiently
relieved by stamping about on the pavement, breaks into a slow and
stately dance, perhaps supposed to be performed by the Dean.

Mr. Datchery receives the communication with a well-satisfied
though pondering face, and breaks up the conference. Returning to
his quaint lodging, and sitting long over the supper of bread-and-
cheese and salad and ale which Mrs. Tope has left prepared for him,
he still sits when his supper is finished. At length he rises,
throws open the door of a corner cupboard, and refers to a few
uncouth chalked strokes on its inner side.

'I like,' says Mr. Datchery, 'the old tavern way of keeping scores.
Illegible except to the scorer. The scorer not committed, the
scored debited with what is against him. Hum; ha! A very small
score this; a very poor score!'

He sighs over the contemplation of its poverty, takes a bit of
chalk from one of the cupboard shelves, and pauses with it in his
hand, uncertain what addition to make to the account.

'I think a moderate stroke,' he concludes, 'is all I am justified
in scoring up;' so, suits the action to the word, closes the
cupboard, and goes to bed.

A brilliant morning shines on the old city. Its antiquities and
ruins are surpassingly beautiful, with a lusty ivy gleaming in the
sun, and the rich trees waving in the balmy air. Changes of
glorious light from moving boughs, songs of birds, scents from
gardens, woods, and fields--or, rather, from the one great garden
of the whole cultivated island in its yielding time--penetrate into
the Cathedral, subdue its earthy odour, and preach the Resurrection
and the Life. The cold stone tombs of centuries ago grow warm; and
flecks of brightness dart into the sternest marble corners of the
building, fluttering there like wings.

Comes Mr. Tope with his large keys, and yawningly unlocks and sets
open. Come Mrs. Tope and attendant sweeping sprites. Come, in due
time, organist and bellows-boy, peeping down from the red curtains
in the loft, fearlessly flapping dust from books up at that remote
elevation, and whisking it from stops and pedals. Come sundry
rooks, from various quarters of the sky, back to the great tower;
who may be presumed to enjoy vibration, and to know that bell and
organ are going to give it them. Come a very small and straggling
congregation indeed: chiefly from Minor Canon Corner and the
Precincts. Come Mr. Crisparkle, fresh and bright; and his
ministering brethren, not quite so fresh and bright. Come the
Choir in a hurry (always in a hurry, and struggling into their
nightgowns at the last moment, like children shirking bed), and
comes John Jasper leading their line. Last of all comes Mr.
Datchery into a stall, one of a choice empty collection very much
at his service, and glancing about him for Her Royal Highness the
Princess Puffer.

The service is pretty well advanced before Mr. Datchery can discern
Her Royal Highness. But by that time he has made her out, in the
shade. She is behind a pillar, carefully withdrawn from the Choir-
master's view, but regards him with the closest attention. All
unconscious of her presence, he chants and sings. She grins when
he is most musically fervid, and--yes, Mr. Datchery sees her do
it!--shakes her fist at him behind the pillar's friendly shelter.

Mr. Datchery looks again, to convince himself. Yes, again! As
ugly and withered as one of the fantastic carvings on the under
brackets of the stall seats, as malignant as the Evil One, as hard
as the big brass eagle holding the sacred books upon his wings
(and, according to the sculptor's representation of his ferocious
attributes, not at all converted by them), she hugs herself in her
lean arms, and then shakes both fists at the leader of the Choir.

And at that moment, outside the grated door of the Choir, having
eluded the vigilance of Mr. Tope by shifty resources in which he is
an adept, Deputy peeps, sharp-eyed, through the bars, and stares
astounded from the threatener to the threatened.

The service comes to an end, and the servitors disperse to
breakfast. Mr. Datchery accosts his last new acquaintance outside,
when the Choir (as much in a hurry to get their bedgowns off, as
they were but now to get them on) have scuffled away.

'Well, mistress. Good morning. You have seen him?'

'I'VE seen him, deary; I'VE seen him!'

'And you know him?'

'Know him! Better far than all the Reverend Parsons put together
know him.'

Mrs. Tope's care has spread a very neat, clean breakfast ready for
her lodger. Before sitting down to it, he opens his corner-
cupboard door; takes his bit of chalk from its shelf; adds one
thick line to the score, extending from the top of the cupboard
door to the bottom; and then falls to with an appetite.

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