The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 Next page
But not for long. As he sat upright and stiff in his chair, he
suddenly rapped his knees, like the carved image of some queer Joss
or other coming out of its reverie, and said: 'We must finish this
bottle, Mr. Edwin. Let me help you. I'll help Bazzard too, though
he IS asleep. He mightn't like it else.'
He helped them both, and helped himself, and drained his glass, and
stood it bottom upward on the table, as though he had just caught a
bluebottle in it.
'And now, Mr. Edwin,' he proceeded, wiping his mouth and hands upon
his handkerchief: 'to a little piece of business. You received
from me, the other day, a certified copy of Miss Rosa's father's
will. You knew its contents before, but you received it from me as
a matter of business. I should have sent it to Mr. Jasper, but for
Miss Rosa's wishing it to come straight to you, in preference. You
'Quite safely, sir.'
'You should have acknowledged its receipt,' said Mr. Grewgious;
'business being business all the world over. However, you did
'I meant to have acknowledged it when I first came in this evening,
'Not a business-like acknowledgment,' returned Mr. Grewgious;
'however, let that pass. Now, in that document you have observed a
few words of kindly allusion to its being left to me to discharge a
little trust, confided to me in conversation, at such time as I in
my discretion may think best.'
'Mr. Edwin, it came into my mind just now, when I was looking at
the fire, that I could, in my discretion, acquit myself of that
trust at no better time than the present. Favour me with your
attention, half a minute.'
He took a bunch of keys from his pocket, singled out by the candle-
light the key he wanted, and then, with a candle in his hand, went
to a bureau or escritoire, unlocked it, touched the spring of a
little secret drawer, and took from it an ordinary ring-case made
for a single ring. With this in his hand, he returned to his
chair. As he held it up for the young man to see, his hand
'Mr. Edwin, this rose of diamonds and rubies delicately set in
gold, was a ring belonging to Miss Rosa's mother. It was removed
from her dead hand, in my presence, with such distracted grief as I
hope it may never be my lot to contemplate again. Hard man as I
am, I am not hard enough for that. See how bright these stones
shine!' opening the case. 'And yet the eyes that were so much
brighter, and that so often looked upon them with a light and a
proud heart, have been ashes among ashes, and dust among dust, some
years! If I had any imagination (which it is needless to say I
have not), I might imagine that the lasting beauty of these stones
was almost cruel.'
He closed the case again as he spoke.
'This ring was given to the young lady who was drowned so early in
her beautiful and happy career, by her husband, when they first
plighted their faith to one another. It was he who removed it from
her unconscious hand, and it was he who, when his death drew very
near, placed it in mine. The trust in which I received it, was,
that, you and Miss Rosa growing to manhood and womanhood, and your
betrothal prospering and coming to maturity, I should give it to
you to place upon her finger. Failing those desired results, it
was to remain in my possession.'
Some trouble was in the young man's face, and some indecision was
in the action of his hand, as Mr. Grewgious, looking steadfastly at
him, gave him the ring.
'Your placing it on her finger,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'will be the
solemn seal upon your strict fidelity to the living and the dead.
You are going to her, to make the last irrevocable preparations for
your marriage. Take it with you.'
The young man took the little case, and placed it in his breast.
'If anything should be amiss, if anything should be even slightly
wrong, between you; if you should have any secret consciousness
that you are committing yourself to this step for no higher reason
than because you have long been accustomed to look forward to it;
then,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'I charge you once more, by the living
and by the dead, to bring that ring back to me!'
Here Bazzard awoke himself by his own snoring; and, as is usual in
such cases, sat apoplectically staring at vacancy, as defying
vacancy to accuse him of having been asleep.
'Bazzard!' said Mr. Grewgious, harder than ever.
'I follow you, sir,' said Bazzard, 'and I have been following you.'
'In discharge of a trust, I have handed Mr. Edwin Drood a ring of
diamonds and rubies. You see?'
Edwin reproduced the little case, and opened it; and Bazzard looked
'I follow you both, sir,' returned Bazzard, 'and I witness the
Evidently anxious to get away and be alone, Edwin Drood now resumed
his outer clothing, muttering something about time and
appointments. The fog was reported no clearer (by the flying
waiter, who alighted from a speculative flight in the coffee
interest), but he went out into it; and Bazzard, after his manner,
Mr. Grewgious, left alone, walked softly and slowly to and fro, for
an hour and more. He was restless to-night, and seemed dispirited.
'I hope I have done right,' he said. 'The appeal to him seemed
necessary. It was hard to lose the ring, and yet it must have gone
from me very soon.'
He closed the empty little drawer with a sigh, and shut and locked
the escritoire, and came back to the solitary fireside.
'Her ring,' he went on. 'Will it come back to me? My mind hangs
about her ring very uneasily to-night. But that is explainable. I
have had it so long, and I have prized it so much! I wonder - '
He was in a wondering mood as well as a restless; for, though he
checked himself at that point, and took another walk, he resumed
his wondering when he sat down again.
'I wonder (for the ten-thousandth time, and what a weak fool I, for
what can it signify now!) whether he confided the charge of their
orphan child to me, because he knew - Good God, how like her mother
she has become!'
'I wonder whether he ever so much as suspected that some one doted
on her, at a hopeless, speechless distance, when he struck in and
won her. I wonder whether it ever crept into his mind who that
unfortunate some one was!'
'I wonder whether I shall sleep to-night! At all events, I will
shut out the world with the bedclothes, and try.'
Mr. Grewgious crossed the staircase to his raw and foggy bedroom,
and was soon ready for bed. Dimly catching sight of his face in
the misty looking-glass, he held his candle to it for a moment.
'A likely some one, YOU, to come into anybody's thoughts in such an
aspect!' he exclaimed. 'There! there! there! Get to bed, poor
man, and cease to jabber!'
With that, he extinguished his light, pulled up the bedclothes
around him, and with another sigh shut out the world. And yet
there are such unexplored romantic nooks in the unlikeliest men,
that even old tinderous and touchwoody P. J. T. Possibly Jabbered
Thus, at some odd times, in or about seventeen-forty-seven.
CHAPTER XII - A NIGHT WITH DURDLES
WHEN Mr. Sapsea has nothing better to do, towards evening, and
finds the contemplation of his own profundity becoming a little
monotonous in spite of the vastness of the subject, he often takes
an airing in the Cathedral Close and thereabout. He likes to pass
the churchyard with a swelling air of proprietorship, and to
encourage in his breast a sort of benignant-landlord feeling, in
that he has been bountiful towards that meritorious tenant, Mrs.
Sapsea, and has publicly given her a prize. He likes to see a
stray face or two looking in through the railings, and perhaps
reading his inscription. Should he meet a stranger coming from the
churchyard with a quick step, he is morally convinced that the
stranger is 'with a blush retiring,' as monumentally directed.
Mr. Sapsea's importance has received enhancement, for he has become
Mayor of Cloisterham. Without mayors, and many of them, it cannot
be disputed that the whole framework of society - Mr. Sapsea is
confident that he invented that forcible figure - would fall to
pieces. Mayors have been knighted for 'going up' with addresses:
explosive machines intrepidly discharging shot and shell into the
English Grammar. Mr. Sapsea may 'go up' with an address. Rise,
Sir Thomas Sapsea! Of such is the salt of the earth.
Mr. Sapsea has improved the acquaintance of Mr. Jasper, since their
first meeting to partake of port, epitaph, backgammon, beef, and
salad. Mr. Sapsea has been received at the gatehouse with kindred
hospitality; and on that occasion Mr. Jasper seated himself at the
piano, and sang to him, tickling his ears - figuratively - long
enough to present a considerable area for tickling. What Mr.
Sapsea likes in that young man is, that he is always ready to
profit by the wisdom of his elders, and that he is sound, sir, at
the core. In proof of which, he sang to Mr. Sapsea that evening,
no kickshaw ditties, favourites with national enemies, but gave him
the genuine George the Third home-brewed; exhorting him (as 'my
brave boys') to reduce to a smashed condition all other islands but
this island, and all continents, peninsulas, isthmuses,
promontories, and other geographical forms of land soever, besides
sweeping the seas in all directions. In short, he rendered it