The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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might be dining cheerfully in Minor Canon Corner to-morrow? Indeed
it probably would be so. I can see too well that I am not high in
the old lady's opinion, and it is easy to understand what an
irksome clog I must be upon the hospitalities of her orderly house
- especially at this time of year - when I must be kept asunder
from this person, and there is such a reason for my not being
brought into contact with that person, and an unfavourable
reputation has preceded me with such another person; and so on. I
have put this very gently to Mr. Crisparkle, for you know his self-
denying ways; but still I have put it. What I have laid much
greater stress upon at the same time is, that I am engaged in a
miserable struggle with myself, and that a little change and
absence may enable me to come through it the better. So, the
weather being bright and hard, I am going on a walking expedition,
and intend taking myself out of everybody's way (my own included, I
hope) to-morrow morning.'
'When to come back?'
'In a fortnight.'
'And going quite alone?'
'I am much better without company, even if there were any one but
you to bear me company, my dear Helena.'
'Mr. Crisparkle entirely agrees, you say?'
'Entirely. I am not sure but that at first he was inclined to
think it rather a moody scheme, and one that might do a brooding
mind harm. But we took a moonlight walk last Monday night, to talk
it over at leisure, and I represented the case to him as it really
is. I showed him that I do want to conquer myself, and that, this
evening well got over, it is surely better that I should be away
from here just now, than here. I could hardly help meeting certain
people walking together here, and that could do no good, and is
certainly not the way to forget. A fortnight hence, that chance
will probably be over, for the time; and when it again arises for
the last time, why, I can again go away. Farther, I really do feel
hopeful of bracing exercise and wholesome fatigue. You know that
Mr. Crisparkle allows such things their full weight in the
preservation of his own sound mind in his own sound body, and that
his just spirit is not likely to maintain one set of natural laws
for himself and another for me. He yielded to my view of the
matter, when convinced that I was honestly in earnest; and so, with
his full consent, I start to-morrow morning. Early enough to be
not only out of the streets, but out of hearing of the bells, when
the good people go to church.'
Helena thinks it over, and thinks well of it. Mr. Crisparkle doing
so, she would do so; but she does originally, out of her own mind,
think well of it, as a healthy project, denoting a sincere
endeavour and an active attempt at self-correction. She is
inclined to pity him, poor fellow, for going away solitary on the
great Christmas festival; but she feels it much more to the purpose
to encourage him. And she does encourage him.
He will write to her?
He will write to her every alternate day, and tell her all his
Does he send clothes on in advance of him?
'My dear Helena, no. Travel like a pilgrim, with wallet and staff.
My wallet - or my knapsack - is packed, and ready for strapping on;
and here is my staff!'
He hands it to her; she makes the same remark as Mr. Crisparkle,
that it is very heavy; and gives it back to him, asking what wood
it is? Iron-wood.
Up to this point he has been extremely cheerful. Perhaps, the
having to carry his case with her, and therefore to present it in
its brightest aspect, has roused his spirits. Perhaps, the having
done so with success, is followed by a revulsion. As the day
closes in, and the city-lights begin to spring up before them, he
'I wish I were not going to this dinner, Helena.'
'Dear Neville, is it worth while to care much about it? Think how
soon it will be over.'
'How soon it will be over!' he repeats gloomily. 'Yes. But I
don't like it.'
There may be a moment's awkwardness, she cheeringly represents to
him, but it can only last a moment. He is quite sure of himself.
'I wish I felt as sure of everything else, as I feel of myself,' he
'How strangely you speak, dear! What do you mean?'
'Helena, I don't know. I only know that I don't like it. What a
strange dead weight there is in the air!'
She calls his attention to those copperous clouds beyond the river,
and says that the wind is rising. He scarcely speaks again, until
he takes leave of her, at the gate of the Nuns' House. She does
not immediately enter, when they have parted, but remains looking
after him along the street. Twice he passes the gatehouse,
reluctant to enter. At length, the Cathedral clock chiming one
quarter, with a rapid turn he hurries in.
And so HE goes up the postern stair.
Edwin Drood passes a solitary day. Something of deeper moment than
he had thought, has gone out of his life; and in the silence of his
own chamber he wept for it last night. Though the image of Miss
Landless still hovers in the background of his mind, the pretty
little affectionate creature, so much firmer and wiser than he had
supposed, occupies its stronghold. It is with some misgiving of
his own unworthiness that he thinks of her, and of what they might
have been to one another, if he had been more in earnest some time
ago; if he had set a higher value on her; if, instead of accepting
his lot in life as an inheritance of course, he had studied the
right way to its appreciation and enhancement. And still, for all
this, and though there is a sharp heartache in all this, the vanity
and caprice of youth sustain that handsome figure of Miss Landless
in the background of his mind.
That was a curious look of Rosa's when they parted at the gate.
Did it mean that she saw below the surface of his thoughts, and
down into their twilight depths? Scarcely that, for it was a look
of astonished and keen inquiry. He decides that he cannot
understand it, though it was remarkably expressive.
As he only waits for Mr. Grewgious now, and will depart immediately
after having seen him, he takes a sauntering leave of the ancient
city and its neighbourhood. He recalls the time when Rosa and he
walked here or there, mere children, full of the dignity of being
engaged. Poor children! he thinks, with a pitying sadness.
Finding that his watch has stopped, he turns into the jeweller's
shop, to have it wound and set. The jeweller is knowing on the
subject of a bracelet, which he begs leave to submit, in a general
and quite aimless way. It would suit (he considers) a young bride,
to perfection; especially if of a rather diminutive style of
beauty. Finding the bracelet but coldly looked at, the jeweller
invites attention to a tray of rings for gentlemen; here is a style
of ring, now, he remarks - a very chaste signet - which gentlemen
are much given to purchasing, when changing their condition. A
ring of a very responsible appearance. With the date of their
wedding-day engraved inside, several gentlemen have preferred it to
any other kind of memento.
The rings are as coldly viewed as the bracelet. Edwin tells the
tempter that he wears no jewellery but his watch and chain, which
were his father's; and his shirt-pin.
'That I was aware of,' is the jeweller's reply, 'for Mr. Jasper
dropped in for a watch-glass the other day, and, in fact, I showed
these articles to him, remarking that if he SHOULD wish to make a
present to a gentleman relative, on any particular occasion - But
he said with a smile that he had an inventory in his mind of all
the jewellery his gentleman relative ever wore; namely, his watch
and chain, and his shirt-pin.' Still (the jeweller considers) that
might not apply to all times, though applying to the present time.
'Twenty minutes past two, Mr. Drood, I set your watch at. Let me
recommend you not to let it run down, sir.'
Edwin takes his watch, puts it on, and goes out, thinking: 'Dear
old Jack! If I were to make an extra crease in my neckcloth, he
would think it worth noticing!'
He strolls about and about, to pass the time until the dinner-hour.
It somehow happens that Cloisterham seems reproachful to him to-
day; has fault to find with him, as if he had not used it well; but
is far more pensive with him than angry. His wonted carelessness
is replaced by a wistful looking at, and dwelling upon, all the old
landmarks. He will soon be far away, and may never see them again,
he thinks. Poor youth! Poor youth!
As dusk draws on, he paces the Monks' Vineyard. He has walked to
and fro, full half an hour by the Cathedral chimes, and it has
closed in dark, before he becomes quite aware of a woman crouching
on the ground near a wicket gate in a corner. The gate commands a
cross bye-path, little used in the gloaming; and the figure must
have been there all the time, though he has but gradually and
lately made it out.
He strikes into that path, and walks up to the wicket. By the
light of a lamp near it, he sees that the woman is of a haggard
appearance, and that her weazen chin is resting on her hands, and
that her eyes are staring - with an unwinking, blind sort of
steadfastness - before her.
Always kindly, but moved to be unusually kind this evening, and
having bestowed kind words on most of the children and aged people
he has met, he at once bends down, and speaks to this woman.
'Are you ill?'
'No, deary,' she answers, without looking at him, and with no
departure from her strange blind stare.
'Are you blind?'