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
'If we knew yesterday,' said Rosa, as she dried her eyes, 'and we
did know yesterday, and on many, many yesterdays, that we were far
from right together in those relations which were not of our own
choosing, what better could we do to-day than change them? It is
natural that we should be sorry, and you see how sorry we both are;
but how much better to be sorry now than then!'
'When it would be too late. And then we should be angry, besides.'
Another silence fell upon them.
'And you know,' said Rosa innocently, 'you couldn't like me then;
and you can always like me now, for I shall not be a drag upon you,
or a worry to you. And I can always like you now, and your sister
will not tease or trifle with you. I often did when I was not your
sister, and I beg your pardon for it.'
'Don't let us come to that, Rosa; or I shall want more pardoning
than I like to think of.'
'No, indeed, Eddy; you are too hard, my generous boy, upon
yourself. Let us sit down, brother, on these ruins, and let me
tell you how it was with us. I think I know, for I have considered
about it very much since you were here last time. You liked me,
didn't you? You thought I was a nice little thing?'
'Everybody thinks that, Rosa.'
'Do they?' She knitted her brow musingly for a moment, and then
flashed out with the bright little induction: 'Well, but say they
do. Surely it was not enough that you should think of me only as
other people did; now, was it?'
The point was not to be got over. It was not enough.
'And that is just what I mean; that is just how it was with us,'
said Rosa. 'You liked me very well, and you had grown used to me,
and had grown used to the idea of our being married. You accepted
the situation as an inevitable kind of thing, didn't you? It was
to be, you thought, and why discuss or dispute it?'
It was new and strange to him to have himself presented to himself
so clearly, in a glass of her holding up. He had always patronised
her, in his superiority to her share of woman's wit. Was that but
another instance of something radically amiss in the terms on which
they had been gliding towards a life-long bondage?
'All this that I say of you is true of me as well, Eddy. Unless it
was, I might not be bold enough to say it. Only, the difference
between us was, that by little and little there crept into my mind
a habit of thinking about it, instead of dismissing it. My life is
not so busy as yours, you see, and I have not so many things to
think of. So I thought about it very much, and I cried about it
very much too (though that was not your fault, poor boy); when all
at once my guardian came down, to prepare for my leaving the Nuns'
House. I tried to hint to him that I was not quite settled in my
mind, but I hesitated and failed, and he didn't understand me. But
he is a good, good man. And he put before me so kindly, and yet so
strongly, how seriously we ought to consider, in our circumstances,
that I resolved to speak to you the next moment we were alone and
grave. And if I seemed to come to it easily just now, because I
came to it all at once, don't think it was so really, Eddy, for O,
it was very, very hard, and O, I am very, very sorry!'
Her full heart broke into tears again. He put his arm about her
waist, and they walked by the river-side together.
'Your guardian has spoken to me too, Rosa dear. I saw him before I
left London.' His right hand was in his breast, seeking the ring;
but he checked it, as he thought: 'If I am to take it back, why
should I tell her of it?'
'And that made you more serious about it, didn't it, Eddy? And if
I had not spoken to you, as I have, you would have spoken to me? I
hope you can tell me so? I don't like it to be ALL my doing,
though it IS so much better for us.'
'Yes, I should have spoken; I should have put everything before
you; I came intending to do it. But I never could have spoken to
you as you have spoken to me, Rosa.'
'Don't say you mean so coldly or unkindly, Eddy, please, if you can
'I mean so sensibly and delicately, so wisely and affectionately.'
'That's my dear brother!' She kissed his hand in a little rapture.
'The dear girls will be dreadfully disappointed,' added Rosa,
laughing, with the dewdrops glistening in her bright eyes. 'They
have looked forward to it so, poor pets!'
'Ah! but I fear it will be a worse disappointment to Jack,' said
Edwin Drood, with a start. 'I never thought of Jack!'
Her swift and intent look at him as he said the words could no more
be recalled than a flash of lightning can. But it appeared as
though she would have instantly recalled it, if she could; for she
looked down, confused, and breathed quickly.
'You don't doubt its being a blow to Jack, Rosa?'
She merely replied, and that evasively and hurriedly: Why should
she? She had not thought about it. He seemed, to her, to have so
little to do with it.
'My dear child! can you suppose that any one so wrapped up in
another - Mrs. Tope's expression: not mine - as Jack is in me,
could fail to be struck all of a heap by such a sudden and complete
change in my life? I say sudden, because it will be sudden to HIM,
She nodded twice or thrice, and her lips parted as if she would
have assented. But she uttered no sound, and her breathing was no
'How shall I tell Jack?' said Edwin, ruminating. If he had been
less occupied with the thought, he must have seen her singular
emotion. 'I never thought of Jack. It must be broken to him,
before the town-crier knows it. I dine with the dear fellow to-
morrow and next day - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - but it
would never do to spoil his feast-days. He always worries about
me, and moddley-coddleys in the merest trifles. The news is sure
to overset him. How on earth shall this be broken to Jack?'
'He must be told, I suppose?' said Rosa.
'My dear Rosa! who ought to be in our confidence, if not Jack?'
'My guardian promised to come down, if I should write and ask him.
I am going to do so. Would you like to leave it to him?'
'A bright idea!' cried Edwin. 'The other trustee. Nothing more
natural. He comes down, he goes to Jack, he relates what we have
agreed upon, and he states our case better than we could. He has
already spoken feelingly to you, he has already spoken feelingly to
me, and he'll put the whole thing feelingly to Jack. That's it! I
am not a coward, Rosa, but to tell you a secret, I am a little
afraid of Jack.'
'No, no! you are not afraid of him!' cried Rosa, turning white, and
clasping her hands.
'Why, sister Rosa, sister Rosa, what do you see from the turret?'
said Edwin, rallying her. 'My dear girl!'
'You frightened me.'
'Most unintentionally, but I am as sorry as if I had meant to do
it. Could you possibly suppose for a moment, from any loose way of
speaking of mine, that I was literally afraid of the dear fond
fellow? What I mean is, that he is subject to a kind of paroxysm,
or fit - I saw him in it once - and I don't know but that so great
a surprise, coming upon him direct from me whom he is so wrapped up
in, might bring it on perhaps. Which - and this is the secret I
was going to tell you - is another reason for your guardian's
making the communication. He is so steady, precise, and exact,
that he will talk Jack's thoughts into shape, in no time: whereas
with me Jack is always impulsive and hurried, and, I may say,
Rosa seemed convinced. Perhaps from her own very different point
of view of 'Jack,' she felt comforted and protected by the
interposition of Mr. Grewgious between herself and him.
And now, Edwin Drood's right hand closed again upon the ring in its
little case, and again was checked by the consideration: 'It is
certain, now, that I am to give it back to him; then why should I
tell her of it?' That pretty sympathetic nature which could be so
sorry for him in the blight of their childish hopes of happiness
together, and could so quietly find itself alone in a new world to
weave fresh wreaths of such flowers as it might prove to bear, the
old world's flowers being withered, would be grieved by those
sorrowful jewels; and to what purpose? Why should it be? They
were but a sign of broken joys and baseless projects; in their very
beauty they were (as the unlikeliest of men had said) almost a
cruel satire on the loves, hopes, plans, of humanity, which are
able to forecast nothing, and are so much brittle dust. Let them
be. He would restore them to her guardian when he came down; he in
his turn would restore them to the cabinet from which he had
unwillingly taken them; and there, like old letters or old vows, or
other records of old aspirations come to nothing, they would be
disregarded, until, being valuable, they were sold into circulation
again, to repeat their former round.
Let them be. Let them lie unspoken of, in his breast. However
distinctly or indistinctly he entertained these thoughts, he
arrived at the conclusion, Let them be. Among the mighty store of
wonderful chains that are for ever forging, day and night, in the
vast iron-works of time and circumstance, there was one chain
forged in the moment of that small conclusion, riveted to the
foundations of heaven and earth, and gifted with invincible force
to hold and drag.
They walked on by the river. They began to speak of their separate
plans. He would quicken his departure from England, and she would
remain where she was, at least as long as Helena remained. The
poor dear girls should have their disappointment broken to them