The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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gently, and, as the first preliminary, Miss Twinkleton should be
confided in by Rosa, even in advance of the reappearance of Mr.
Grewgious. It should be made clear in all quarters that she and
Edwin were the best of friends. There had never been so serene an
understanding between them since they were first affianced. And
yet there was one reservation on each side; on hers, that she
intended through her guardian to withdraw herself immediately from
the tuition of her music-master; on his, that he did already
entertain some wandering speculations whether it might ever come to
pass that he would know more of Miss Landless.
The bright, frosty day declined as they walked and spoke together.
The sun dipped in the river far behind them, and the old city lay
red before them, as their walk drew to a close. The moaning water
cast its seaweed duskily at their feet, when they turned to leave
its margin; and the rooks hovered above them with hoarse cries,
darker splashes in the darkening air.
'I will prepare Jack for my flitting soon,' said Edwin, in a low
voice, 'and I will but see your guardian when he comes, and then go
before they speak together. It will be better done without my
being by. Don't you think so?'
'We know we have done right, Rosa?'
'We know we are better so, even now?'
'And shall be far, far better so by-and-by.'
Still there was that lingering tenderness in their hearts towards
the old positions they were relinquishing, that they prolonged
their parting. When they came among the elm-trees by the
Cathedral, where they had last sat together, they stopped as by
consent, and Rosa raised her face to his, as she had never raised
it in the old days; - for they were old already.
'God bless you, dear! Good-bye!'
'God bless you, dear! Good-bye!'
They kissed each other fervently.
'Now, please take me home, Eddy, and let me be by myself.'
'Don't look round, Rosa,' he cautioned her, as he drew her arm
through his, and led her away. 'Didn't you see Jack?'
'Under the trees. He saw us, as we took leave of each other. Poor
fellow! he little thinks we have parted. This will be a blow to
him, I am much afraid!'
She hurried on, without resting, and hurried on until they had
passed under the gatehouse into the street; once there, she asked:
'Has he followed us? You can look without seeming to. Is he
'No. Yes, he is! He has just passed out under the gateway. The
dear, sympathetic old fellow likes to keep us in sight. I am
afraid he will be bitterly disappointed!'
She pulled hurriedly at the handle of the hoarse old bell, and the
gate soon opened. Before going in, she gave him one last, wide,
wondering look, as if she would have asked him with imploring
emphasis: 'O! don't you understand?' And out of that look he
vanished from her view.
CHAPTER XIV - WHEN SHALL THESE THREE MEET AGAIN?
CHRISTMAS EVE in Cloisterham. A few strange faces in the streets;
a few other faces, half strange and half familiar, once the faces
of Cloisterham children, now the faces of men and women who come
back from the outer world at long intervals to find the city
wonderfully shrunken in size, as if it had not washed by any means
well in the meanwhile. To these, the striking of the Cathedral
clock, and the cawing of the rooks from the Cathedral tower, are
like voices of their nursery time. To such as these, it has
happened in their dying hours afar off, that they have imagined
their chamber-floor to be strewn with the autumnal leaves fallen
from the elm-trees in the Close: so have the rustling sounds and
fresh scents of their earliest impressions revived when the circle
of their lives was very nearly traced, and the beginning and the
end were drawing close together.
Seasonable tokens are about. Red berries shine here and there in
the lattices of Minor Canon Corner; Mr. and Mrs. Tope are daintily
sticking sprigs of holly into the carvings and sconces of the
Cathedral stalls, as if they were sticking them into the coat-
button-holes of the Dean and Chapter. Lavish profusion is in the
shops: particularly in the articles of currants, raisins, spices,
candied peel, and moist sugar. An unusual air of gallantry and
dissipation is abroad; evinced in an immense bunch of mistletoe
hanging in the greengrocer's shop doorway, and a poor little
Twelfth Cake, culminating in the figure of a Harlequin - such a
very poor little Twelfth Cake, that one would rather called it a
Twenty-fourth Cake or a Forty-eighth Cake - to be raffled for at
the pastrycook's, terms one shilling per member. Public amusements
are not wanting. The Wax-Work which made so deep an impression on
the reflective mind of the Emperor of China is to be seen by
particular desire during Christmas Week only, on the premises of
the bankrupt livery-stable-keeper up the lane; and a new grand
comic Christmas pantomime is to be produced at the Theatre: the
latter heralded by the portrait of Signor Jacksonini the clown,
saying 'How do you do to-morrow?' quite as large as life, and
almost as miserably. In short, Cloisterham is up and doing:
though from this description the High School and Miss Twinkleton's
are to be excluded. From the former establishment the scholars
have gone home, every one of them in love with one of Miss
Twinkleton's young ladies (who knows nothing about it); and only
the handmaidens flutter occasionally in the windows of the latter.
It is noticed, by the bye, that these damsels become, within the
limits of decorum, more skittish when thus intrusted with the
concrete representation of their sex, than when dividing the
representation with Miss Twinkleton's young ladies.
Three are to meet at the gatehouse to-night. How does each one of
the three get through the day?
Neville Landless, though absolved from his books for the time by
Mr. Crisparkle - whose fresh nature is by no means insensible to
the charms of a holiday - reads and writes in his quiet room, with
a concentrated air, until it is two hours past noon. He then sets
himself to clearing his table, to arranging his books, and to
tearing up and burning his stray papers. He makes a clean sweep of
all untidy accumulations, puts all his drawers in order, and leaves
no note or scrap of paper undestroyed, save such memoranda as bear
directly on his studies. This done, he turns to his wardrobe,
selects a few articles of ordinary wear - among them, change of
stout shoes and socks for walking - and packs these in a knapsack.
This knapsack is new, and he bought it in the High Street
yesterday. He also purchased, at the same time and at the same
place, a heavy walking-stick; strong in the handle for the grip of
the hand, and iron-shod. He tries this, swings it, poises it, and
lays it by, with the knapsack, on a window-seat. By this time his
arrangements are complete.
He dresses for going out, and is in the act of going - indeed has
left his room, and has met the Minor Canon on the staircase, coming
out of his bedroom upon the same story - when he turns back again
for his walking-stick, thinking he will carry it now. Mr.
Crisparkle, who has paused on the staircase, sees it in his hand on
his immediately reappearing, takes it from him, and asks him with a
smile how he chooses a stick?
'Really I don't know that I understand the subject,' he answers.
'I chose it for its weight.'
'Much too heavy, Neville; MUCH too heavy.'
'To rest upon in a long walk, sir?'
'Rest upon?' repeats Mr. Crisparkle, throwing himself into
pedestrian form. 'You don't rest upon it; you merely balance with
'I shall know better, with practice, sir. I have not lived in a
walking country, you know.'
'True,' says Mr. Crisparkle. 'Get into a little training, and we
will have a few score miles together. I should leave you nowhere
now. Do you come back before dinner?'
'I think not, as we dine early.'
Mr. Crisparkle gives him a bright nod and a cheerful good-bye;
expressing (not without intention) absolute confidence and ease
Neville repairs to the Nuns' House, and requests that Miss Landless
may be informed that her brother is there, by appointment. He
waits at the gate, not even crossing the threshold; for he is on
his parole not to put himself in Rosa's way.
His sister is at least as mindful of the obligation they have taken
on themselves as he can be, and loses not a moment in joining him.
They meet affectionately, avoid lingering there, and walk towards
the upper inland country.
'I am not going to tread upon forbidden ground, Helena,' says
Neville, when they have walked some distance and are turning; 'you
will understand in another moment that I cannot help referring to -
what shall I say? - my infatuation.'
'Had you not better avoid it, Neville? You know that I can hear
'You can hear, my dear, what Mr. Crisparkle has heard, and heard
'Yes; I can hear so much.'
'Well, it is this. I am not only unsettled and unhappy myself, but
I am conscious of unsettling and interfering with other people.
How do I know that, but for my unfortunate presence, you, and - and
- the rest of that former party, our engaging guardian excepted,