The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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locker, hook, and drawer were equally within reach, and were
equally contrived with a view to avoiding waste of room, and
providing some snug inches of stowage for something that would have
exactly fitted nowhere else. His gleaming little service of plate
was so arranged upon his sideboard as that a slack salt-spoon would
have instantly betrayed itself; his toilet implements were so
arranged upon his dressing-table as that a toothpick of slovenly
deportment could have been reported at a glance. So with the
curiosities he had brought home from various voyages. Stuffed,
dried, repolished, or otherwise preserved, according to their kind;
birds, fishes, reptiles, arms, articles of dress, shells, seaweeds,
grasses, or memorials of coral reef; each was displayed in its
especial place, and each could have been displayed in no better
place. Paint and varnish seemed to be kept somewhere out of sight,
in constant readiness to obliterate stray finger-marks wherever any
might become perceptible in Mr. Tartar's chambers. No man-of-war
was ever kept more spick and span from careless touch. On this
bright summer day, a neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tartar's
flower-garden as only a sailor can rig it, and there was a sea-
going air upon the whole effect, so delightfully complete, that the
flower-garden might have appertained to stern-windows afloat, and
the whole concern might have bowled away gallantly with all on
board, if Mr. Tartar had only clapped to his lips the speaking-
trumpet that was slung in a corner, and given hoarse orders to
heave the anchor up, look alive there, men, and get all sail upon
Mr. Tartar doing the honours of this gallant craft was of a piece
with the rest. When a man rides an amiable hobby that shies at
nothing and kicks nobody, it is only agreeable to find him riding
it with a humorous sense of the droll side of the creature. When
the man is a cordial and an earnest man by nature, and withal is
perfectly fresh and genuine, it may be doubted whether he is ever
seen to greater advantage than at such a time. So Rosa would have
naturally thought (even if she hadn't been conducted over the ship
with all the homage due to the First Lady of the Admiralty, or
First Fairy of the Sea), that it was charming to see and hear Mr.
Tartar half laughing at, and half rejoicing in, his various
contrivances. So Rosa would have naturally thought, anyhow, that
the sunburnt sailor showed to great advantage when, the inspection
finished, he delicately withdrew out of his admiral's cabin,
beseeching her to consider herself its Queen, and waving her free
of his flower-garden with the hand that had had Mr. Crisparkle's
life in it.
'Helena! Helena Landless! Are you there?'
'Who speaks to me? Not Rosa?' Then a second handsome face
'Yes, my darling!'
'Why, how did you come here, dearest?'
'I - I don't quite know,' said Rosa with a blush; 'unless I am
Why with a blush? For their two faces were alone with the other
flowers. Are blushes among the fruits of the country of the magic
'I am not dreaming,' said Helena, smiling. 'I should take more for
granted if I were. How do we come together - or so near together -
so very unexpectedly?'
Unexpectedly indeed, among the dingy gables and chimney-pots of P.
J. T.'s connection, and the flowers that had sprung from the salt
sea. But Rosa, waking, told in a hurry how they came to be
together, and all the why and wherefore of that matter.
'And Mr. Crisparkle is here,' said Rosa, in rapid conclusion; 'and,
could you believe it? long ago he saved his life!'
'I could believe any such thing of Mr. Crisparkle,' returned
Helena, with a mantling face.
(More blushes in the bean-stalk country!)
'Yes, but it wasn't Crisparkle,' said Rosa, quickly putting in the
'I don't understand, love.'
'It was very nice of Mr. Crisparkle to be saved,' said Rosa, 'and
he couldn't have shown his high opinion of Mr. Tartar more
expressively. But it was Mr. Tartar who saved him.'
Helena's dark eyes looked very earnestly at the bright face among
the leaves, and she asked, in a slower and more thoughtful tone:
'Is Mr. Tartar with you now, dear?'
'No; because he has given up his rooms to me - to us, I mean. It
is such a beautiful place!'
'It is like the inside of the most exquisite ship that ever sailed.
It is like - it is like - '
'Like a dream?' suggested Helena.
Rosa answered with a little nod, and smelled the flowers.
Helena resumed, after a short pause of silence, during which she
seemed (or it was Rosa's fancy) to compassionate somebody: 'My
poor Neville is reading in his own room, the sun being so very
bright on this side just now. I think he had better not know that
you are so near.'
'O, I think so too!' cried Rosa very readily.
'I suppose,' pursued Helena, doubtfully, 'that he must know by-and-
by all you have told me; but I am not sure. Ask Mr. Crisparkle's
advice, my darling. Ask him whether I may tell Neville as much or
as little of what you have told me as I think best.'
Rosa subsided into her state-cabin, and propounded the question.
The Minor Canon was for the free exercise of Helena's judgment.
'I thank him very much,' said Helena, when Rosa emerged again with
her report. 'Ask him whether it would be best to wait until any
more maligning and pursuing of Neville on the part of this wretch
shall disclose itself, or to try to anticipate it: I mean, so far
as to find out whether any such goes on darkly about us?'
The Minor Canon found this point so difficult to give a confident
opinion on, that, after two or three attempts and failures, he
suggested a reference to Mr. Grewgious. Helena acquiescing, he
betook himself (with a most unsuccessful assumption of lounging
indifference) across the quadrangle to P. J. T.'s, and stated it.
Mr. Grewgious held decidedly to the general principle, that if you
could steal a march upon a brigand or a wild beast, you had better
do it; and he also held decidedly to the special case, that John
Jasper was a brigand and a wild beast in combination.
Thus advised, Mr. Crisparkle came back again and reported to Rosa,
who in her turn reported to Helena. She now steadily pursuing her
train of thought at her window, considered thereupon.
'We may count on Mr. Tartar's readiness to help us, Rosa?' she
O yes! Rosa shyly thought so. O yes, Rosa shyly believed she
could almost answer for it. But should she ask Mr. Crisparkle? 'I
think your authority on the point as good as his, my dear,' said
Helena, sedately, 'and you needn't disappear again for that.' Odd
'You see, Neville,' Helena pursued after more reflection, 'knows no
one else here: he has not so much as exchanged a word with any one
else here. If Mr. Tartar would call to see him openly and often;
if he would spare a minute for the purpose, frequently; if he would
even do so, almost daily; something might come of it.'
'Something might come of it, dear?' repeated Rosa, surveying her
friend's beauty with a highly perplexed face. 'Something might?'
'If Neville's movements are really watched, and if the purpose
really is to isolate him from all friends and acquaintance and wear
his daily life out grain by grain (which would seem to be the
threat to you), does it not appear likely,' said Helena, 'that his
enemy would in some way communicate with Mr. Tartar to warn him off
from Neville? In which case, we might not only know the fact, but
might know from Mr. Tartar what the terms of the communication
'I see!' cried Rosa. And immediately darted into her state-cabin
Presently her pretty face reappeared, with a greatly heightened
colour, and she said that she had told Mr. Crisparkle, and that Mr.
Crisparkle had fetched in Mr. Tartar, and that Mr. Tartar - 'who is
waiting now, in case you want him,' added Rosa, with a half look
back, and in not a little confusion between the inside of the
state-cabin and out - had declared his readiness to act as she had
suggested, and to enter on his task that very day.
'I thank him from my heart,' said Helena. 'Pray tell him so.'
Again not a little confused between the Flower-garden and the
Cabin, Rosa dipped in with her message, and dipped out again with
more assurances from Mr. Tartar, and stood wavering in a divided
state between Helena and him, which proved that confusion is not
always necessarily awkward, but may sometimes present a very
'And now, darling,' said Helena, 'we will be mindful of the caution
that has restricted us to this interview for the present, and will
part. I hear Neville moving too. Are you going back?'
'To Miss Twinkleton's?' asked Rosa.
'O, I could never go there any more. I couldn't indeed, after that
dreadful interview!' said Rosa.
'Then where ARE you going, pretty one?'