The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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He invited Mr. Honeythunder to dinner, with a troubled mind (for
the discomfiture of the dear old china shepherdess lay heavy on
it), and gave his arm to Helena Landless. Both she and her
brother, as they walked all together through the ancient streets,
took great delight in what he pointed out of the Cathedral and the
Monastery ruin, and wondered - so his notes ran on - much as if
they were beautiful barbaric captives brought from some wild
tropical dominion. Mr. Honeythunder walked in the middle of the
road, shouldering the natives out of his way, and loudly developing
a scheme he had, for making a raid on all the unemployed persons in
the United Kingdom, laying them every one by the heels in jail, and
forcing them, on pain of prompt extermination, to become
Mrs. Crisparkle had need of her own share of philanthropy when she
beheld this very large and very loud excrescence on the little
party. Always something in the nature of a Boil upon the face of
society, Mr. Honeythunder expanded into an inflammatory Wen in
Minor Canon Corner. Though it was not literally true, as was
facetiously charged against him by public unbelievers, that he
called aloud to his fellow-creatures: 'Curse your souls and
bodies, come here and be blessed!' still his philanthropy was of
that gunpowderous sort that the difference between it and animosity
was hard to determine. You were to abolish military force, but you
were first to bring all commanding officers who had done their
duty, to trial by court-martial for that offence, and shoot them.
You were to abolish war, but were to make converts by making war
upon them, and charging them with loving war as the apple of their
eye. You were to have no capital punishment, but were first to
sweep off the face of the earth all legislators, jurists, and
judges, who were of the contrary opinion. You were to have
universal concord, and were to get it by eliminating all the people
who wouldn't, or conscientiously couldn't, be concordant. You were
to love your brother as yourself, but after an indefinite interval
of maligning him (very much as if you hated him), and calling him
all manner of names. Above all things, you were to do nothing in
private, or on your own account. You were to go to the offices of
the Haven of Philanthropy, and put your name down as a Member and a
Professing Philanthropist. Then, you were to pay up your
subscription, get your card of membership and your riband and
medal, and were evermore to live upon a platform, and evermore to
say what Mr. Honeythunder said, and what the Treasurer said, and
what the sub-Treasurer said, and what the Committee said, and what
the sub-Committee said, and what the Secretary said, and what the
Vice-Secretary said. And this was usually said in the unanimously-
carried resolution under hand and seal, to the effect: 'That this
assembled Body of Professing Philanthropists views, with indignant
scorn and contempt, not unmixed with utter detestation and loathing
abhorrence' - in short, the baseness of all those who do not belong
to it, and pledges itself to make as many obnoxious statements as
possible about them, without being at all particular as to facts.
The dinner was a most doleful breakdown. The philanthropist
deranged the symmetry of the table, sat himself in the way of the
waiting, blocked up the thoroughfare, and drove Mr. Tope (who
assisted the parlour-maid) to the verge of distraction by passing
plates and dishes on, over his own head. Nobody could talk to
anybody, because he held forth to everybody at once, as if the
company had no individual existence, but were a Meeting. He
impounded the Reverend Mr. Septimus, as an official personage to be
addressed, or kind of human peg to hang his oratorical hat on, and
fell into the exasperating habit, common among such orators, of
impersonating him as a wicked and weak opponent. Thus, he would
ask: 'And will you, sir, now stultify yourself by telling me' -
and so forth, when the innocent man had not opened his lips, nor
meant to open them. Or he would say: 'Now see, sir, to what a
position you are reduced. I will leave you no escape. After
exhausting all the resources of fraud and falsehood, during years
upon years; after exhibiting a combination of dastardly meanness
with ensanguined daring, such as the world has not often witnessed;
you have now the hypocrisy to bend the knee before the most
degraded of mankind, and to sue and whine and howl for mercy!'
Whereat the unfortunate Minor Canon would look, in part indignant
and in part perplexed; while his worthy mother sat bridling, with
tears in her eyes, and the remainder of the party lapsed into a
sort of gelatinous state, in which there was no flavour or
solidity, and very little resistance.
But the gush of philanthropy that burst forth when the departure of
Mr. Honeythunder began to impend, must have been highly gratifying
to the feelings of that distinguished man. His coffee was
produced, by the special activity of Mr. Tope, a full hour before
he wanted it. Mr. Crisparkle sat with his watch in his hand for
about the same period, lest he should overstay his time. The four
young people were unanimous in believing that the Cathedral clock
struck three-quarters, when it actually struck but one. Miss
Twinkleton estimated the distance to the omnibus at five-and-twenty
minutes' walk, when it was really five. The affectionate kindness
of the whole circle hustled him into his greatcoat, and shoved him
out into the moonlight, as if he were a fugitive traitor with whom
they sympathised, and a troop of horse were at the back door. Mr.
Crisparkle and his new charge, who took him to the omnibus, were so
fervent in their apprehensions of his catching cold, that they shut
him up in it instantly and left him, with still half-an-hour to
CHAPTER VII - MORE CONFIDENCES THAN ONE
'I KNOW very little of that gentleman, sir,' said Neville to the
Minor Canon as they turned back.
'You know very little of your guardian?' the Minor Canon repeated.
'How came he - '
'To BE my guardian? I'll tell you, sir. I suppose you know that
we come (my sister and I) from Ceylon?'
'I wonder at that. We lived with a stepfather there. Our mother
died there, when we were little children. We have had a wretched
existence. She made him our guardian, and he was a miserly wretch
who grudged us food to eat, and clothes to wear. At his death, he
passed us over to this man; for no better reason that I know of,
than his being a friend or connexion of his, whose name was always
in print and catching his attention.'
'That was lately, I suppose?'
'Quite lately, sir. This stepfather of ours was a cruel brute as
well as a grinding one. It is well he died when he did, or I might
have killed him.'
Mr. Crisparkle stopped short in the moonlight and looked at his
hopeful pupil in consternation.
'I surprise you, sir?' he said, with a quick change to a submissive
'You shock me; unspeakably shock me.'
The pupil hung his head for a little while, as they walked on, and
then said: 'You never saw him beat your sister. I have seen him
beat mine, more than once or twice, and I never forgot it.'
'Nothing,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'not even a beloved and beautiful
sister's tears under dastardly ill-usage;' he became less severe,
in spite of himself, as his indignation rose; 'could justify those
horrible expressions that you used.'
'I am sorry I used them, and especially to you, sir. I beg to
recall them. But permit me to set you right on one point. You
spoke of my sister's tears. My sister would have let him tear her
to pieces, before she would have let him believe that he could make
her shed a tear.'
Mr. Crisparkle reviewed those mental notes of his, and was neither
at all surprised to hear it, nor at all disposed to question it.
'Perhaps you will think it strange, sir,' - this was said in a
hesitating voice - 'that I should so soon ask you to allow me to
confide in you, and to have the kindness to hear a word or two from
me in my defence?'
'Defence?' Mr. Crisparkle repeated. 'You are not on your defence,
'I think I am, sir. At least I know I should be, if you were
better acquainted with my character.'
'Well, Mr. Neville,' was the rejoinder. 'What if you leave me to
find it out?'
'Since it is your pleasure, sir,' answered the young man, with a
quick change in his manner to sullen disappointment: 'since it is
your pleasure to check me in my impulse, I must submit.'
There was that in the tone of this short speech which made the
conscientious man to whom it was addressed uneasy. It hinted to
him that he might, without meaning it, turn aside a trustfulness
beneficial to a mis-shapen young mind and perhaps to his own power
of directing and improving it. They were within sight of the
lights in his windows, and he stopped.
'Let us turn back and take a turn or two up and down, Mr. Neville,
or you may not have time to finish what you wish to say to me. You
are hasty in thinking that I mean to check you. Quite the
contrary. I invite your confidence.'
'You have invited it, sir, without knowing it, ever since I came
here. I say "ever since," as if I had been here a week. The truth
is, we came here (my sister and I) to quarrel with you, and affront
you, and break away again.'
'Really?' said Mr. Crisparkle, at a dead loss for anything else to
'You see, we could not know what you were beforehand, sir; could
'Clearly not,' said Mr. Crisparkle.
'And having liked no one else with whom we have ever been brought
into contact, we had made up our minds not to like you.'
'Really?' said Mr. Crisparkle again.