The Mystery of Edwin Drood
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The two youthful figures, side by side, but not now arm-in-arm,
wander discontentedly about the old Close; and each sometimes stops
and slowly imprints a deeper footstep in the fallen leaves.
'Well!' says Edwin, after a lengthy silence. 'According to custom.
We can't get on, Rosa.'
Rosa tosses her head, and says she don't want to get on.
'That's a pretty sentiment, Rosa, considering.'
'If I say what, you'll go wrong again.'
'YOU'LL go wrong, you mean, Eddy. Don't be ungenerous.'
'Ungenerous! I like that!'
'Then I DON'T like that, and so I tell you plainly,' Rosa pouts.
'Now, Rosa, I put it to you. Who disparaged my profession, my
destination - '
'You are not going to be buried in the Pyramids, I hope?' she
interrupts, arching her delicate eyebrows. 'You never said you
were. If you are, why haven't you mentioned it to me? I can't
find out your plans by instinct.'
'Now, Rosa, you know very well what I mean, my dear.'
'Well then, why did you begin with your detestable red-nosed
giantesses? And she would, she would, she would, she would, she
WOULD powder it!' cries Rosa, in a little burst of comical
'Somehow or other, I never can come right in these discussions,'
says Edwin, sighing and becoming resigned.
'How is it possible, sir, that you ever can come right when you're
always wrong? And as to Belzoni, I suppose he's dead; - I'm sure I
hope he is - and how can his legs or his chokes concern you?'
'It is nearly time for your return, Rosa. We have not had a very
happy walk, have we?'
'A happy walk? A detestably unhappy walk, sir. If I go up-stairs
the moment I get in and cry till I can't take my dancing lesson,
you are responsible, mind!'
'Let us be friends, Rosa.'
'Ah!' cries Rosa, shaking her head and bursting into real tears, 'I
wish we COULD be friends! It's because we can't be friends, that
we try one another so. I am a young little thing, Eddy, to have an
old heartache; but I really, really have, sometimes. Don't be
angry. I know you have one yourself too often. We should both of
us have done better, if What is to be had been left What might have
been. I am quite a little serious thing now, and not teasing you.
Let each of us forbear, this one time, on our own account, and on
Disarmed by this glimpse of a woman's nature in the spoilt child,
though for an instant disposed to resent it as seeming to involve
the enforced infliction of himself upon her, Edwin Drood stands
watching her as she childishly cries and sobs, with both hands to
the handkerchief at her eyes, and then - she becoming more
composed, and indeed beginning in her young inconstancy to laugh at
herself for having been so moved - leads her to a seat hard by,
under the elm-trees.
'One clear word of understanding, Pussy dear. I am not clever out
of my own line - now I come to think of it, I don't know that I am
particularly clever in it - but I want to do right. There is not -
there may be - I really don't see my way to what I want to say, but
I must say it before we part - there is not any other young - '
'O no, Eddy! It's generous of you to ask me; but no, no, no!'
They have come very near to the Cathedral windows, and at this
moment the organ and the choir sound out sublimely. As they sit
listening to the solemn swell, the confidence of last night rises
in young Edwin Drood's mind, and he thinks how unlike this music is
to that discordance.
'I fancy I can distinguish Jack's voice,' is his remark in a low
tone in connection with the train of thought.
'Take me back at once, please,' urges his Affianced, quickly laying
her light hand upon his wrist. 'They will all be coming out
directly; let us get away. O, what a resounding chord! But don't
let us stop to listen to it; let us get away!'
Her hurry is over as soon as they have passed out of the Close.
They go arm-in-arm now, gravely and deliberately enough, along the
old High-street, to the Nuns' House. At the gate, the street being
within sight empty, Edwin bends down his face to Rosebud's.
She remonstrates, laughing, and is a childish schoolgirl again.
'Eddy, no! I'm too sticky to be kissed. But give me your hand,
and I'll blow a kiss into that.'
He does so. She breathes a light breath into it and asks,
retaining it and looking into it:-
'Now say, what do you see?'
'Why, I thought you Egyptian boys could look into a hand and see
all sorts of phantoms. Can't you see a happy Future?'
For certain, neither of them sees a happy Present, as the gate
opens and closes, and one goes in, and the other goes away.
CHAPTER IV - MR. SAPSEA
ACCEPTING the Jackass as the type of self-sufficient stupidity and
conceit - a custom, perhaps, like some few other customs, more
conventional than fair - then the purest jackass in Cloisterham is
Mr. Thomas Sapsea, Auctioneer.
Mr. Sapsea 'dresses at' the Dean; has been bowed to for the Dean,
in mistake; has even been spoken to in the street as My Lord, under
the impression that he was the Bishop come down unexpectedly,
without his chaplain. Mr. Sapsea is very proud of this, and of his
voice, and of his style. He has even (in selling landed property)
tried the experiment of slightly intoning in his pulpit, to make
himself more like what he takes to be the genuine ecclesiastical
article. So, in ending a Sale by Public Auction, Mr. Sapsea
finishes off with an air of bestowing a benediction on the
assembled brokers, which leaves the real Dean - a modest and worthy
gentleman - far behind.
Mr. Sapsea has many admirers; indeed, the proposition is carried by
a large local majority, even including non-believers in his wisdom,
that he is a credit to Cloisterham. He possesses the great
qualities of being portentous and dull, and of having a roll in his
speech, and another roll in his gait; not to mention a certain
gravely flowing action with his hands, as if he were presently
going to Confirm the individual with whom he holds discourse. Much
nearer sixty years of age than fifty, with a flowing outline of
stomach, and horizontal creases in his waistcoat; reputed to be
rich; voting at elections in the strictly respectable interest;
morally satisfied that nothing but he himself has grown since he
was a baby; how can dunder-headed Mr. Sapsea be otherwise than a
credit to Cloisterham, and society?
Mr. Sapsea's premises are in the High-street, over against the
Nuns' House. They are of about the period of the Nuns' House,
irregularly modernised here and there, as steadily deteriorating
generations found, more and more, that they preferred air and light
to Fever and the Plague. Over the doorway is a wooden effigy,
about half life-size, representing Mr. Sapsea's father, in a curly
wig and toga, in the act of selling. The chastity of the idea, and
the natural appearance of the little finger, hammer, and pulpit,
have been much admired.
Mr. Sapsea sits in his dull ground-floor sitting-room, giving first
on his paved back yard; and then on his railed-off garden. Mr.
Sapsea has a bottle of port wine on a table before the fire - the
fire is an early luxury, but pleasant on the cool, chilly autumn
evening - and is characteristically attended by his portrait, his
eight-day clock, and his weather-glass. Characteristically,
because he would uphold himself against mankind, his weather-glass
against weather, and his clock against time.
By Mr. Sapsea's side on the table are a writing-desk and writing
materials. Glancing at a scrap of manuscript, Mr. Sapsea reads it
to himself with a lofty air, and then, slowly pacing the room with
his thumbs in the arm-holes of his waistcoat, repeats it from
memory: so internally, though with much dignity, that the word
'Ethelinda' is alone audible.
There are three clean wineglasses in a tray on the table. His
serving-maid entering, and announcing 'Mr. Jasper is come, sir,'
Mr. Sapsea waves 'Admit him,' and draws two wineglasses from the
rank, as being claimed.
'Glad to see you, sir. I congratulate myself on having the honour
of receiving you here for the first time.' Mr. Sapsea does the
honours of his house in this wise.
'You are very good. The honour is mine and the self-congratulation
'You are pleased to say so, sir. But I do assure you that it is a
satisfaction to me to receive you in my humble home. And that is
what I would not say to everybody.' Ineffable loftiness on Mr.
Sapsea's part accompanies these words, as leaving the sentence to
be understood: 'You will not easily believe that your society can
be a satisfaction to a man like myself; nevertheless, it is.'
'I have for some time desired to know you, Mr. Sapsea.'
'And I, sir, have long known you by reputation as a man of taste.
Let me fill your glass. I will give you, sir,' says Mr. Sapsea,
filling his own: