The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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'Yes, deary; something I was going to do?'
'But had not quite determined to do.'
'Might or might not do, you understand.'
'Yes.' With the point of a needle she stirs the contents of the
'Should you do it in your fancy, when you were lying here doing
She nods her head. 'Over and over again.'
'Just like me! I did it over and over again. I have done it
hundreds of thousands of times in this room.'
'It's to be hoped it was pleasant to do, deary.'
'It WAS pleasant to do!'
He says this with a savage air, and a spring or start at her.
Quite unmoved she retouches and replenishes the contents of the
bowl with her little spatula. Seeing her intent upon the
occupation, he sinks into his former attitude.
'It was a journey, a difficult and dangerous journey. That was the
subject in my mind. A hazardous and perilous journey, over abysses
where a slip would be destruction. Look down, look down! You see
what lies at the bottom there?'
He has darted forward to say it, and to point at the ground, as
though at some imaginary object far beneath. The woman looks at
him, as his spasmodic face approaches close to hers, and not at his
pointing. She seems to know what the influence of her perfect
quietude would be; if so, she has not miscalculated it, for he
'Well; I have told you I did it here hundreds of thousands of
times. What do I say? I did it millions and billions of times. I
did it so often, and through such vast expanses of time, that when
it was really done, it seemed not worth the doing, it was done so
'That's the journey you have been away upon,' she quietly remarks.
He glares at her as he smokes; and then, his eyes becoming filmy,
answers: 'That's the journey.'
Silence ensues. His eyes are sometimes closed and sometimes open.
The woman sits beside him, very attentive to the pipe, which is all
the while at his lips.
'I'll warrant,' she observes, when he has been looking fixedly at
her for some consecutive moments, with a singular appearance in his
eyes of seeming to see her a long way off, instead of so near him:
'I'll warrant you made the journey in a many ways, when you made it
'No, always in one way.'
'Always in the same way?'
'In the way in which it was really made at last?'
'And always took the same pleasure in harping on it?'
For the time he appears unequal to any other reply than this lazy
monosyllabic assent. Probably to assure herself that it is not the
assent of a mere automaton, she reverses the form of her next
'Did you never get tired of it, deary, and try to call up something
else for a change?'
He struggles into a sitting posture, and retorts upon her: 'What
do you mean? What did I want? What did I come for?'
She gently lays him back again, and before returning him the
instrument he has dropped, revives the fire in it with her own
breath; then says to him, coaxingly:
'Sure, sure, sure! Yes, yes, yes! Now I go along with you. You
was too quick for me. I see now. You come o' purpose to take the
journey. Why, I might have known it, through its standing by you
He answers first with a laugh, and then with a passionate setting
of his teeth: 'Yes, I came on purpose. When I could not bear my
life, I came to get the relief, and I got it. It WAS one! It WAS
one!' This repetition with extraordinary vehemence, and the snarl
of a wolf.
She observes him very cautiously, as though mentally feeling her
way to her next remark. It is: 'There was a fellow-traveller,
'Ha, ha, ha!' He breaks into a ringing laugh, or rather yell.
'To think,' he cries, 'how often fellow-traveller, and yet not know
it! To think how many times he went the journey, and never saw the
The woman kneels upon the floor, with her arms crossed on the
coverlet of the bed, close by him, and her chin upon them. In this
crouching attitude she watches him. The pipe is falling from his
mouth. She puts it back, and laying her hand upon his chest, moves
him slightly from side to side. Upon that he speaks, as if she had
'Yes! I always made the journey first, before the changes of
colours and the great landscapes and glittering processions began.
They couldn't begin till it was off my mind. I had no room till
then for anything else.'
Once more he lapses into silence. Once more she lays her hand upon
his chest, and moves him slightly to and fro, as a cat might
stimulate a half-slain mouse. Once more he speaks, as if she had
'What? I told you so. When it comes to be real at last, it is so
short that it seems unreal for the first time. Hark!'
'Yes, deary. I'm listening.'
'Time and place are both at hand.'
He is on his feet, speaking in a whisper, and as if in the dark.
'Time, place, and fellow-traveller,' she suggests, adopting his
tone, and holding him softly by the arm.
'How could the time be at hand unless the fellow-traveller was?
Hush! The journey's made. It's over.'
'That's what I said to you. So soon. Wait a little. This is a
vision. I shall sleep it off. It has been too short and easy. I
must have a better vision than this; this is the poorest of all.
No struggle, no consciousness of peril, no entreaty - and yet I
never saw THAT before.' With a start.
'Saw what, deary?'
'Look at it! Look what a poor, mean, miserable thing it is! THAT
must be real. It's over.'
He has accompanied this incoherence with some wild unmeaning
gestures; but they trail off into the progressive inaction of
stupor, and he lies a log upon the bed.
The woman, however, is still inquisitive. With a repetition of her
cat-like action she slightly stirs his body again, and listens;
stirs again, and listens; whispers to it, and listens. Finding it
past all rousing for the time, she slowly gets upon her feet, with
an air of disappointment, and flicks the face with the back of her
hand in turning from it.
But she goes no further away from it than the chair upon the
hearth. She sits in it, with an elbow on one of its arms, and her
chin upon her hand, intent upon him. 'I heard ye say once,' she
croaks under her breath, 'I heard ye say once, when I was lying
where you're lying, and you were making your speculations upon me,
"Unintelligible!" I heard you say so, of two more than me. But
don't ye be too sure always; don't be ye too sure, beauty!'
Unwinking, cat-like, and intent, she presently adds: 'Not so
potent as it once was? Ah! Perhaps not at first. You may be more
right there. Practice makes perfect. I may have learned the
secret how to make ye talk, deary.'
He talks no more, whether or no. Twitching in an ugly way from
time to time, both as to his face and limbs, he lies heavy and
silent. The wretched candle burns down; the woman takes its
expiring end between her fingers, lights another at it, crams the
guttering frying morsel deep into the candlestick, and rams it home
with the new candle, as if she were loading some ill-savoured and
unseemly weapon of witchcraft; the new candle in its turn burns
down; and still he lies insensible. At length what remains of the
last candle is blown out, and daylight looks into the room.
It has not looked very long, when he sits up, chilled and shaking,
slowly recovers consciousness of where he is, and makes himself
ready to depart. The woman receives what he pays her with a
grateful, 'Bless ye, bless ye, deary!' and seems, tired out, to
begin making herself ready for sleep as he leaves the room.
But seeming may be false or true. It is false in this case; for,
the moment the stairs have ceased to creak under his tread, she
glides after him, muttering emphatically: 'I'll not miss ye