The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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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