The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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'Yes,' says Rosa, with sudden spirit, 'The politeness was my
guardian's, not mine. I told him that I was resolved to leave off,
and that I was determined to stand by my resolution.'
'And you still are?'
'I still am, sir. And I beg not to be questioned any more about
it. At all events, I will not answer any more; I have that in my
She is so conscious of his looking at her with a gloating
admiration of the touch of anger on her, and the fire and animation
it brings with it, that even as her spirit rises, it falls again,
and she struggles with a sense of shame, affront, and fear, much as
she did that night at the piano.
'I will not question you any more, since you object to it so much;
I will confess - '
'I do not wish to hear you, sir,' cries Rosa, rising.
This time he does touch her with his outstretched hand. In
shrinking from it, she shrinks into her seat again.
'We must sometimes act in opposition to our wishes,' he tells her
in a low voice. 'You must do so now, or do more harm to others
than you can ever set right.'
'Presently, presently. You question ME, you see, and surely that's
not fair when you forbid me to question you. Nevertheless, I will
answer the question presently. Dearest Rosa! Charming Rosa!'
She starts up again.
This time he does not touch her. But his face looks so wicked and
menacing, as he stands leaning against the sun-dial-setting, as it
were, his black mark upon the very face of day - that her flight is
arrested by horror as she looks at him.
'I do not forget how many windows command a view of us,' he says,
glancing towards them. 'I will not touch you again; I will come no
nearer to you than I am. Sit down, and there will be no mighty
wonder in your music-master's leaning idly against a pedestal and
speaking with you, remembering all that has happened, and our
shares in it. Sit down, my beloved.'
She would have gone once more - was all but gone - and once more
his face, darkly threatening what would follow if she went, has
stopped her. Looking at him with the expression of the instant
frozen on her face, she sits down on the seat again.
'Rosa, even when my dear boy was affianced to you, I loved you
madly; even when I thought his happiness in having you for his wife
was certain, I loved you madly; even when I strove to make him more
ardently devoted to you, I loved you madly; even when he gave me
the picture of your lovely face so carelessly traduced by him,
which I feigned to hang always in my sight for his sake, but
worshipped in torment for years, I loved you madly; in the
distasteful work of the day, in the wakeful misery of the night,
girded by sordid realities, or wandering through Paradises and
Hells of visions into which I rushed, carrying your image in my
arms, I loved you madly.'
If anything could make his words more hideous to her than they are
in themselves, it would be the contrast between the violence of his
look and delivery, and the composure of his assumed attitude.
'I endured it all in silence. So long as you were his, or so long
as I supposed you to be his, I hid my secret loyally. Did I not?'
This lie, so gross, while the mere words in which it is told are so
true, is more than Rosa can endure. She answers with kindling
indignation: 'You were as false throughout, sir, as you are now.
You were false to him, daily and hourly. You know that you made my
life unhappy by your pursuit of me. You know that you made me
afraid to open his generous eyes, and that you forced me, for his
own trusting, good, good sake, to keep the truth from him, that you
were a bad, bad man!'
His preservation of his easy attitude rendering his working
features and his convulsive hands absolutely diabolical, he
returns, with a fierce extreme of admiration:
'How beautiful you are! You are more beautiful in anger than in
repose. I don't ask you for your love; give me yourself and your
hatred; give me yourself and that pretty rage; give me yourself and
that enchanting scorn; it will be enough for me.'
Impatient tears rise to the eyes of the trembling little beauty,
and her face flames; but as she again rises to leave him in
indignation, and seek protection within the house, he stretches out
his hand towards the porch, as though he invited her to enter it.
'I told you, you rare charmer, you sweet witch, that you must stay
and hear me, or do more harm than can ever be undone. You asked me
what harm. Stay, and I will tell you. Go, and I will do it!'
Again Rosa quails before his threatening face, though innocent of
its meaning, and she remains. Her panting breathing comes and goes
as if it would choke her; but with a repressive hand upon her
bosom, she remains.
'I have made my confession that my love is mad. It is so mad, that
had the ties between me and my dear lost boy been one silken thread
less strong, I might have swept even him from your side, when you
A film come over the eyes she raises for an instant, as though he
had turned her faint.
'Even him,' he repeats. 'Yes, even him! Rosa, you see me and you
hear me. Judge for yourself whether any other admirer shall love
you and live, whose life is in my hand.'
'What do you mean, sir?'
'I mean to show you how mad my love is. It was hawked through the
late inquiries by Mr. Crisparkle, that young Landless had confessed
to him that he was a rival of my lost boy. That is an inexpiable
offence in my eyes. The same Mr. Crisparkle knows under my hand
that I have devoted myself to the murderer's discovery and
destruction, be he whom he might, and that I determined to discuss
the mystery with no one until I should hold the clue in which to
entangle the murderer as in a net. I have since worked patiently
to wind and wind it round him; and it is slowly winding as I
'Your belief, if you believe in the criminality of Mr. Landless, is
not Mr. Crisparkle's belief, and he is a good man,' Rosa retorts.
'My belief is my own; and I reserve it, worshipped of my soul!
Circumstances may accumulate so strongly EVEN AGAINST AN INNOCENT
MAN, that directed, sharpened, and pointed, they may slay him. One
wanting link discovered by perseverance against a guilty man,
proves his guilt, however slight its evidence before, and he dies.
Young Landless stands in deadly peril either way.'
'If you really suppose,' Rosa pleads with him, turning paler, 'that
I favour Mr. Landless, or that Mr. Landless has ever in any way
addressed himself to me, you are wrong.'
He puts that from him with a slighting action of his hand and a
'I was going to show you how madly I love you. More madly now than
ever, for I am willing to renounce the second object that has
arisen in my life to divide it with you; and henceforth to have no
object in existence but you only. Miss Landless has become your
bosom friend. You care for her peace of mind?'
'I love her dearly.'
'You care for her good name?'
'I have said, sir, I love her dearly.'
'I am unconsciously,' he observes with a smile, as he folds his
hands upon the sun-dial and leans his chin upon them, so that his
talk would seem from the windows (faces occasionally come and go
there) to be of the airiest and playfullest - 'I am unconsciously
giving offence by questioning again. I will simply make
statements, therefore, and not put questions. You do care for your
bosom friend's good name, and you do care for her peace of mind.
Then remove the shadow of the gallows from her, dear one!'
'You dare propose to me to - '
'Darling, I dare propose to you. Stop there. If it be bad to
idolise you, I am the worst of men; if it be good, I am the best.
My love for you is above all other love, and my truth to you is
above all other truth. Let me have hope and favour, and I am a
forsworn man for your sake.'
Rosa puts her hands to her temples, and, pushing back her hair,
looks wildly and abhorrently at him, as though she were trying to
piece together what it is his deep purpose to present to her only
'Reckon up nothing at this moment, angel, but the sacrifices that I
lay at those dear feet, which I could fall down among the vilest
ashes and kiss, and put upon my head as a poor savage might. There
is my fidelity to my dear boy after death. Tread upon it!'
With an action of his hands, as though he cast down something
'There is the inexpiable offence against my adoration of you.
With a similar action.
'There are my labours in the cause of a just vengeance for six
toiling months. Crush them!'
With another repetition of the action.
'There is my past and my present wasted life. There is the