The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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'Are you lost, homeless, faint? What is the matter, that you stay
here in the cold so long, without moving?'
By slow and stiff efforts, she appears to contract her vision until
it can rest upon him; and then a curious film passes over her, and
she begins to shake.
He straightens himself, recoils a step, and looks down at her in a
dread amazement; for he seems to know her.
'Good Heaven!' he thinks, next moment. 'Like Jack that night!'
As he looks down at her, she looks up at him, and whimpers: 'My
lungs is weakly; my lungs is dreffle bad. Poor me, poor me, my
cough is rattling dry!' and coughs in confirmation horribly.
'Where do you come from?'
'Come from London, deary.' (Her cough still rending her.)
'Where are you going to?'
'Back to London, deary. I came here, looking for a needle in a
haystack, and I ain't found it. Look'ee, deary; give me three-and-
sixpence, and don't you be afeard for me. I'll get back to London
then, and trouble no one. I'm in a business. - Ah, me! It's
slack, it's slack, and times is very bad! - but I can make a shift
to live by it.'
'Do you eat opium?'
'Smokes it,' she replies with difficulty, still racked by her
cough. 'Give me three-and-sixpence, and I'll lay it out well, and
get back. If you don't give me three-and-sixpence, don't give me a
brass farden. And if you do give me three-and-sixpence, deary,
I'll tell you something.'
He counts the money from his pocket, and puts it in her hand. She
instantly clutches it tight, and rises to her feet with a croaking
laugh of satisfaction.
'Bless ye! Hark'ee, dear genl'mn. What's your Chris'en name?'
'Edwin, Edwin, Edwin,' she repeats, trailing off into a drowsy
repetition of the word; and then asks suddenly: 'Is the short of
that name Eddy?'
'It is sometimes called so,' he replies, with the colour starting
to his face.
'Don't sweethearts call it so?' she asks, pondering.
'How should I know?'
'Haven't you a sweetheart, upon your soul?'
She is moving away, with another 'Bless ye, and thank'ee, deary!'
when he adds: 'You were to tell me something; you may as well do
'So I was, so I was. Well, then. Whisper. You be thankful that
your name ain't Ned.'
He looks at her quite steadily, as he asks: 'Why?'
'Because it's a bad name to have just now.'
'How a bad name?'
'A threatened name. A dangerous name.'
'The proverb says that threatened men live long,' he tells her,
'Then Ned - so threatened is he, wherever he may be while I am a-
talking to you, deary - should live to all eternity!' replies the
She has leaned forward to say it in his ear, with her forefinger
shaking before his eyes, and now huddles herself together, and with
another 'Bless ye, and thank'ee!' goes away in the direction of the
Travellers' Lodging House.
This is not an inspiriting close to a dull day. Alone, in a
sequestered place, surrounded by vestiges of old time and decay, it
rather has a tendency to call a shudder into being. He makes for
the better-lighted streets, and resolves as he walks on to say
nothing of this to-night, but to mention it to Jack (who alone
calls him Ned), as an odd coincidence, to-morrow; of course only as
a coincidence, and not as anything better worth remembering.
Still, it holds to him, as many things much better worth
remembering never did. He has another mile or so, to linger out
before the dinner-hour; and, when he walks over the bridge and by
the river, the woman's words are in the rising wind, in the angry
sky, in the troubled water, in the flickering lights. There is
some solemn echo of them even in the Cathedral chime, which strikes
a sudden surprise to his heart as he turns in under the archway of
And so HE goes up the postern stair.
John Jasper passes a more agreeable and cheerful day than either of
his guests. Having no music-lessons to give in the holiday season,
his time is his own, but for the Cathedral services. He is early
among the shopkeepers, ordering little table luxuries that his
nephew likes. His nephew will not be with him long, he tells his
provision-dealers, and so must be petted and made much of. While
out on his hospitable preparations, he looks in on Mr. Sapsea; and
mentions that dear Ned, and that inflammable young spark of Mr.
Crisparkle's, are to dine at the gatehouse to-day, and make up
their difference. Mr. Sapsea is by no means friendly towards the
inflammable young spark. He says that his complexion is 'Un-
English.' And when Mr. Sapsea has once declared anything to be Un-
English, he considers that thing everlastingly sunk in the
John Jasper is truly sorry to hear Mr. Sapsea speak thus, for he
knows right well that Mr. Sapsea never speaks without a meaning,
and that he has a subtle trick of being right. Mr. Sapsea (by a
very remarkable coincidence) is of exactly that opinion.
Mr. Jasper is in beautiful voice this day. In the pathetic
supplication to have his heart inclined to keep this law, he quite
astonishes his fellows by his melodious power. He has never sung
difficult music with such skill and harmony, as in this day's
Anthem. His nervous temperament is occasionally prone to take
difficult music a little too quickly; to-day, his time is perfect.
These results are probably attained through a grand composure of
the spirits. The mere mechanism of his throat is a little tender,
for he wears, both with his singing-robe and with his ordinary
dress, a large black scarf of strong close-woven silk, slung
loosely round his neck. But his composure is so noticeable, that
Mr. Crisparkle speaks of it as they come out from Vespers.
'I must thank you, Jasper, for the pleasure with which I have heard
you to-day. Beautiful! Delightful! You could not have so outdone
yourself, I hope, without being wonderfully well.'
'I AM wonderfully well.'
'Nothing unequal,' says the Minor Canon, with a smooth motion of
his hand: 'nothing unsteady, nothing forced, nothing avoided; all
thoroughly done in a masterly manner, with perfect self-command.'
'Thank you. I hope so, if it is not too much to say.'
'One would think, Jasper, you had been trying a new medicine for
that occasional indisposition of yours.'
'No, really? That's well observed; for I have.'
'Then stick to it, my good fellow,' says Mr. Crisparkle, clapping
him on the shoulder with friendly encouragement, 'stick to it.'
'I congratulate you,' Mr. Crisparkle pursues, as they come out of
the Cathedral, 'on all accounts.'
'Thank you again. I will walk round to the Corner with you, if you
don't object; I have plenty of time before my company come; and I
want to say a word to you, which I think you will not be displeased
'What is it?'
'Well. We were speaking, the other evening, of my black humours.'
Mr. Crisparkle's face falls, and he shakes his head deploringly.
'I said, you know, that I should make you an antidote to those
black humours; and you said you hoped I would consign them to the
'And I still hope so, Jasper.'
'With the best reason in the world! I mean to burn this year's
Diary at the year's end.'
'Because you - ?' Mr. Crisparkle brightens greatly as he thus
'You anticipate me. Because I feel that I have been out of sorts,
gloomy, bilious, brain-oppressed, whatever it may be. You said I
had been exaggerative. So I have.'
Mr. Crisparkle's brightened face brightens still more.
'I couldn't see it then, because I WAS out of sorts; but I am in a
healthier state now, and I acknowledge it with genuine pleasure. I
made a great deal of a very little; that's the fact.'