The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens

Chapter 11

A Picture and a Ring

Behind the most ancient part of Holborn, London, where certain gabled houses some centuries of age still stand looking on the public way, as if disconsolately looking for the Old Bourne that has long run dry, is a little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles, called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing street, imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears, and velvet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks where a few smoky sparrows twitter in smoky trees, as though they called to one another, ‘Let us play at country,’ and where a few feet of garden-mould and a few yards of gravel enable them to do that refreshing violence to their tiny understandings. Moreover, it is one of those nooks which are legal nooks; and it contains a little Hall, with a little lantern in its roof: to what obstructive purposes devoted, and at whose expense, this history knoweth not.

In the days when Cloisterham took offence at the existence of a railroad afar off, as menacing that sensitive constitution, the property of us Britons: the odd fortune of which sacred institution it is to be in exactly equal degrees croaked about, trembled for, and boasted of, whatever happens to anything, anywhere in the world: in those days no neighbouring architecture of lofty proportions had arisen to overshadow Staple Inn. The westering sun bestowed bright glances on it, and the south-west wind blew into it unimpeded.

Neither wind nor sun, however, favoured Staple Inn one December afternoon towards six o’clock, when it was filled with fog, and candles shed murky and blurred rays through the windows of all its then-occupied sets of chambers; notably from a set of chambers in a corner house in the little inner quadrangle, presenting in black and white over its ugly portal the mysterious inscription:

P
J T
1747

In which set of chambers, never having troubled his head about the inscription, unless to bethink himself at odd times on glancing up at it, that haply it might mean Perhaps John Thomas, or Perhaps Joe Tyler, sat Mr. Grewgious writing by his fire.

Who could have told, by looking at Mr. Grewgious, whether he had ever known ambition or disappointment? He had been bred to the Bar, and had laid himself out for chamber practice; to draw deeds; ‘convey the wise it call,’ as Pistol says. But Conveyancing and he had made such a very indifferent marriage of it that they had separated by consent — if there can be said to be separation where there has never been coming together.

No. Coy Conveyancing would not come to Mr. Grewgious. She was wooed, not won, and they went their several ways. But an Arbitration being blown towards him by some unaccountable wind, and he gaining great credit in it as one indefatigable in seeking out right and doing right, a pretty fat Receivership was next blown into his pocket by a wind more traceable to its source. So, by chance, he had found his niche. Receiver and Agent now, to two rich estates, and deputing their legal business, in an amount worth having, to a firm of solicitors on the floor below, he had snuffed out his ambition (supposing him to have ever lighted it), and had settled down with his snuffers for the rest of his life under the dry vine and fig-tree of P. J. T., who planted in seventeen-forty-seven.

Many accounts and account-books, many files of correspondence, and several strong boxes, garnished Mr. Grewgious’s room. They can scarcely be represented as having lumbered it, so conscientious and precise was their orderly arrangement. The apprehension of dying suddenly, and leaving one fact or one figure with any incompleteness or obscurity attaching to it, would have stretched Mr. Grewgious stone-dead any day. The largest fidelity to a trust was the life-blood of the man. There are sorts of life-blood that course more quickly, more gaily, more attractively; but there is no better sort in circulation.

There was no luxury in his room. Even its comforts were limited to its being dry and warm, and having a snug though faded fireside. What may be called its private life was confined to the hearth, and all easy-chair, and an old-fashioned occasional round table that was brought out upon the rug after business hours, from a corner where it elsewise remained turned up like a shining mahogany shield. Behind it, when standing thus on the defensive, was a closet, usually containing something good to drink. An outer room was the clerk’s room; Mr. Grewgious’s sleeping-room was across the common stair; and he held some not empty cellarage at the bottom of the common stair. Three hundred days in the year, at least, he crossed over to the hotel in Furnival’s Inn for his dinner, and after dinner crossed back again, to make the most of these simplicities until it should become broad business day once more, with P. J. T., date seventeen-forty-seven.

As Mr. Grewgious sat and wrote by his fire that afternoon, so did the clerk of Mr. Grewgious sit and write by his fire. A pale, puffy-faced, dark-haired person of thirty, with big dark eyes that wholly wanted lustre, and a dissatisfied doughy complexion, that seemed to ask to be sent to the baker’s, this attendant was a mysterious being, possessed of some strange power over Mr. Grewgious. As though he had been called into existence, like a fabulous Familiar, by a magic spell which had failed when required to dismiss him, he stuck tight to Mr. Grewgious’s stool, although Mr. Grewgious’s comfort and convenience would manifestly have been advanced by dispossessing him. A gloomy person with tangled locks, and a general air of having been reared under the shadow of that baleful tree of Java which has given shelter to more lies than the whole botanical kingdom, Mr. Grewgious, nevertheless, treated him with unaccountable consideration.

‘Now, Bazzard,’ said Mr. Grewgious, on the entrance of his clerk: looking up from his papers as he arranged them for the night: ‘what is in the wind besides fog?’

‘Mr. Drood,’ said Bazzard.

‘What of him?’

‘Has called,’ said Bazzard.

‘You might have shown him in.’

‘I am doing it,’ said Bazzard.

The visitor came in accordingly.

‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Grewgious, looking round his pair of office candles. ‘I thought you had called and merely left your name and gone. How do you do, Mr. Edwin? Dear me, you’re choking!’

‘It’s this fog,’ returned Edwin; ‘and it makes my eyes smart, like Cayenne pepper.’

‘Is it really so bad as that? Pray undo your wrappers. It’s fortunate I have so good a fire; but Mr. Bazzard has taken care of me.’

‘No I haven’t,’ said Mr. Bazzard at the door.

‘Ah! then it follows that I must have taken care of myself without observing it,’ said Mr. Grewgious. ‘Pray be seated in my chair. No. I beg! Coming out of such an atmosphere, in MY chair.’

Edwin took the easy-chair in the corner; and the fog he had brought in with him, and the fog he took off with his greatcoat and neck-shawl, was speedily licked up by the eager fire.

‘I look,’ said Edwin, smiling, ‘as if I had come to stop.’

‘— By the by,’ cried Mr. Grewgious; ‘excuse my interrupting you; do stop. The fog may clear in an hour or two. We can have dinner in from just across Holborn. You had better take your Cayenne pepper here than outside; pray stop and dine.’

‘You are very kind,’ said Edwin, glancing about him as though attracted by the notion of a new and relishing sort of gipsy-party.

‘Not at all,’ said Mr. Grewgious; ‘you are very kind to join issue with a bachelor in chambers, and take pot-luck. And I’ll ask,’ said Mr. Grewgious, dropping his voice, and speaking with a twinkling eye, as if inspired with a bright thought: ‘I’ll ask Bazzard. He mightn’t like it else. — Bazzard!’

Bazzard reappeared.

‘Dine presently with Mr. Drood and me.’

‘If I am ordered to dine, of course I will, sir,’ was the gloomy answer.

‘Save the man!’ cried Mr. Grewgious. ‘You’re not ordered; you’re invited.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Bazzard; ‘in that case I don’t care if I do.’

‘That’s arranged. And perhaps you wouldn’t mind,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘stepping over to the hotel in Furnival’s, and asking them to send in materials for laying the cloth. For dinner we’ll have a tureen of the hottest and strongest soup available, and we’ll have the best made-dish that can be recommended, and we’ll have a joint (such as a haunch of mutton), and we’ll have a goose, or a turkey, or any little stuffed thing of that sort that may happen to be in the bill of fare — in short, we’ll have whatever there is on hand.’

These liberal directions Mr. Grewgious issued with his usual air of reading an inventory, or repeating a lesson, or doing anything else by rote. Bazzard, after drawing out the round table, withdrew to execute them.

‘I was a little delicate, you see,’ said Mr. Grewgious, in a lower tone, after his clerk’s departure, ‘about employing him in the foraging or commissariat department. Because he mightn’t like it.’

‘He seems to have his own way, sir,’ remarked Edwin.

‘His own way?’ returned Mr. Grewgious. ‘O dear no! Poor fellow, you quite mistake him. If he had his own way, he wouldn’t be here.’

‘I wonder where he would be!’ Edwin thought. But he only thought it, because Mr. Grewgious came and stood himself with his back to the other corner of the fire, and his shoulder-blades against the chimneypiece, and collected his skirts for easy conversation.

‘I take it, without having the gift of prophecy, that you have done me the favour of looking in to mention that you are going down yonder — where I can tell you, you are expected — and to offer to execute any little commission from me to my charming ward, and perhaps to sharpen me up a bit in any proceedings? Eh, Mr. Edwin?’

‘I called, sir, before going down, as an act of attention.’

‘Of attention!’ said Mr. Grewgious. ‘Ah! of course, not of impatience?’

‘Impatience, sir?’

Mr. Grewgious had meant to be arch — not that he in the remotest degree expressed that meaning — and had brought himself into scarcely supportable proximity with the fire, as if to burn the fullest effect of his archness into himself, as other subtle impressions are burnt into hard metals. But his archness suddenly flying before the composed face and manner of his visitor, and only the fire remaining, he started and rubbed himself.

‘I have lately been down yonder,’ said Mr. Grewgious, rearranging his skirts; ‘and that was what I referred to, when I said I could tell you you are expected.’

‘Indeed, sir! Yes; I knew that Pussy was looking out for me.’

‘Do you keep a cat down there?’ asked Mr. Grewgious.

Edwin coloured a little as he explained: ‘I call Rosa Pussy.’

‘O, really,’ said Mr. Grewgious, smoothing down his head; ‘that’s very affable.’

Edwin glanced at his face, uncertain whether or no he seriously objected to the appellation. But Edwin might as well have glanced at the face of a clock.

‘A pet name, sir,’ he explained again.

‘Umps,’ said Mr. Grewgious, with a nod. But with such an extraordinary compromise between an unqualified assent and a qualified dissent, that his visitor was much disconcerted.

‘Did PRosa —’ Edwin began by way of recovering himself.

‘PRosa?’ repeated Mr. Grewgious.

‘I was going to say Pussy, and changed my mind; — did she tell you anything about the Landlesses?’

‘No,’ said Mr. Grewgious. ‘What is the Landlesses? An estate? A villa? A farm?’

‘A brother and sister. The sister is at the Nuns’ House, and has become a great friend of P—’

‘PRosa’s,’ Mr. Grewgious struck in, with a fixed face.

‘She is a strikingly handsome girl, sir, and I thought she might have been described to you, or presented to you perhaps?’

‘Neither,’ said Mr. Grewgious. ‘But here is Bazzard.’

Bazzard returned, accompanied by two waiters — an immovable waiter, and a flying waiter; and the three brought in with them as much fog as gave a new roar to the fire. The flying waiter, who had brought everything on his shoulders, laid the cloth with amazing rapidity and dexterity; while the immovable waiter, who had brought nothing, found fault with him. The flying waiter then highly polished all the glasses he had brought, and the immovable waiter looked through them. The flying waiter then flew across Holborn for the soup, and flew back again, and then took another flight for the made-dish, and flew back again, and then took another flight for the joint and poultry, and flew back again, and between whiles took supplementary flights for a great variety of articles, as it was discovered from time to time that the immovable waiter had forgotten them all. But let the flying waiter cleave the air as he might, he was always reproached on his return by the immovable waiter for bringing fog with him, and being out of breath. At the conclusion of the repast, by which time the flying waiter was severely blown, the immovable waiter gathered up the tablecloth under his arm with a grand air, and having sternly (not to say with indignation) looked on at the flying waiter while he set the clean glasses round, directed a valedictory glance towards Mr. Grewgious, conveying: ‘Let it be clearly understood between us that the reward is mine, and that Nil is the claim of this slave,’ and pushed the flying waiter before him out of the room.

It was like a highly-finished miniature painting representing My Lords of the Circumlocution Department, Commandership-in–Chief of any sort, Government. It was quite an edifying little picture to be hung on the line in the National Gallery.

As the fog had been the proximate cause of this sumptuous repast, so the fog served for its general sauce. To hear the out-door clerks sneezing, wheezing, and beating their feet on the gravel was a zest far surpassing Doctor Kitchener’s. To bid, with a shiver, the unfortunate flying waiter shut the door before he had opened it, was a condiment of a profounder flavour than Harvey. And here let it be noticed, parenthetically, that the leg of this young man, in its application to the door, evinced the finest sense of touch: always preceding himself and tray (with something of an angling air about it), by some seconds: and always lingering after he and the tray had disappeared, like Macbeth’s leg when accompanying him off the stage with reluctance to the assassination of Duncan.

The host had gone below to the cellar, and had brought up bottles of ruby, straw-coloured, and golden drinks, which had ripened long ago in lands where no fogs are, and had since lain slumbering in the shade. Sparkling and tingling after so long a nap, they pushed at their corks to help the corkscrew (like prisoners helping rioters to force their gates), and danced out gaily. If P. J. T. in seventeen-forty-seven, or in any other year of his period, drank such wines — then, for a certainty, P. J. T. was Pretty Jolly Too.

Externally, Mr. Grewgious showed no signs of being mellowed by these glowing vintages. Instead of his drinking them, they might have been poured over him in his high-dried snuff form, and run to waste, for any lights and shades they caused to flicker over his face. Neither was his manner influenced. But, in his wooden way, he had observant eyes for Edwin; and when at the end of dinner, he motioned Edwin back to his own easy-chair in the fireside corner, and Edwin sank luxuriously into it after very brief remonstrance, Mr. Grewgious, as he turned his seat round towards the fire too, and smoothed his head and face, might have been seen looking at his visitor between his smoothing fingers.

‘Bazzard!’ said Mr. Grewgious, suddenly turning to him.

‘I follow you, sir,’ returned Bazzard; who had done his work of consuming meat and drink in a workmanlike manner, though mostly in speechlessness.

‘I drink to you, Bazzard; Mr. Edwin, success to Mr. Bazzard!’

‘Success to Mr. Bazzard!’ echoed Edwin, with a totally unfounded appearance of enthusiasm, and with the unspoken addition: ‘What in, I wonder!’

‘And May!’ pursued Mr. Grewgious —‘I am not at liberty to be definite — May! — my conversational powers are so very limited that I know I shall not come well out of this — May! — it ought to be put imaginatively, but I have no imagination — May! — the thorn of anxiety is as nearly the mark as I am likely to get — May it come out at last!’

Mr. Bazzard, with a frowning smile at the fire, put a hand into his tangled locks, as if the thorn of anxiety were there; then into his waistcoat, as if it were there; then into his pockets, as if it were there. In all these movements he was closely followed by the eyes of Edwin, as if that young gentleman expected to see the thorn in action. It was not produced, however, and Mr. Bazzard merely said: ‘I follow you, sir, and I thank you.’

‘I am going,’ said Mr. Grewgious, jingling his glass on the table with one hand, and bending aside under cover of the other, to whisper to Edwin, ‘to drink to my ward. But I put Bazzard first. He mightn’t like it else.’

This was said with a mysterious wink; or what would have been a wink, if, in Mr. Grewgious’s hands, it could have been quick enough. So Edwin winked responsively, without the least idea what he meant by doing so.

‘And now,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘I devote a bumper to the fair and fascinating Miss Rosa. Bazzard, the fair and fascinating Miss Rosa!’

‘I follow you, sir,’ said Bazzard, ‘and I pledge you!’

‘And so do I!’ said Edwin.

‘Lord bless me,’ cried Mr. Grewgious, breaking the blank silence which of course ensued: though why these pauses should come upon us when we have performed any small social rite, not directly inducive of self-examination or mental despondency, who can tell? ‘I am a particularly Angular man, and yet I fancy (if I may use the word, not having a morsel of fancy), that I could draw a picture of a true lover’s state of mind, to-night.’

‘Let us follow you, sir,’ said Bazzard, ‘and have the picture.’

‘Mr. Edwin will correct it where it’s wrong,’ resumed Mr. Grewgious, ‘and will throw in a few touches from the life. I dare say it is wrong in many particulars, and wants many touches from the life, for I was born a Chip, and have neither soft sympathies nor soft experiences. Well! I hazard the guess that the true lover’s mind is completely permeated by the beloved object of his affections. I hazard the guess that her dear name is precious to him, cannot be heard or repeated without emotion, and is preserved sacred. If he has any distinguishing appellation of fondness for her, it is reserved for her, and is not for common ears. A name that it would be a privilege to call her by, being alone with her own bright self, it would be a liberty, a coldness, an insensibility, almost a breach of good faith, to flaunt elsewhere.’

It was wonderful to see Mr. Grewgious sitting bolt upright, with his hands on his knees, continuously chopping this discourse out of himself: much as a charity boy with a very good memory might get his catechism said: and evincing no correspondent emotion whatever, unless in a certain occasional little tingling perceptible at the end of his nose.

‘My picture,’ Mr. Grewgious proceeded, ‘goes on to represent (under correction from you, Mr. Edwin), the true lover as ever impatient to be in the presence or vicinity of the beloved object of his affections; as caring very little for his case in any other society; and as constantly seeking that. If I was to say seeking that, as a bird seeks its nest, I should make an ass of myself, because that would trench upon what I understand to be poetry; and I am so far from trenching upon poetry at any time, that I never, to my knowledge, got within ten thousand miles of it. And I am besides totally unacquainted with the habits of birds, except the birds of Staple Inn, who seek their nests on ledges, and in gutter-pipes and chimneypots, not constructed for them by the beneficent hand of Nature. I beg, therefore, to be understood as foregoing the bird’s-nest. But my picture does represent the true lover as having no existence separable from that of the beloved object of his affections, and as living at once a doubled life and a halved life. And if I do not clearly express what I mean by that, it is either for the reason that having no conversational powers, I cannot express what I mean, or that having no meaning, I do not mean what I fail to express. Which, to the best of my belief, is not the case.’

Edwin had turned red and turned white, as certain points of this picture came into the light. He now sat looking at the fire, and bit his lip.

‘The speculations of an Angular man,’ resumed Mr. Grewgious, still sitting and speaking exactly as before, ‘are probably erroneous on so globular a topic. But I figure to myself (subject, as before, to Mr. Edwin’s correction), that there can be no coolness, no lassitude, no doubt, no indifference, no half fire and half smoke state of mind, in a real lover. Pray am I at all near the mark in my picture?’

As abrupt in his conclusion as in his commencement and progress, he jerked this inquiry at Edwin, and stopped when one might have supposed him in the middle of his oration.

‘I should say, sir,’ stammered Edwin, ‘as you refer the question to me —’

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘I refer it to you, as an authority.’

‘I should say, then, sir,’ Edwin went on, embarrassed, ‘that the picture you have drawn is generally correct; but I submit that perhaps you may be rather hard upon the unlucky lover.’

‘Likely so,’ assented Mr. Grewgious, ‘likely so. I am a hard man in the grain.’

‘He may not show,’ said Edwin, ‘all he feels; or he may not —’

There he stopped so long, to find the rest of his sentence, that Mr. Grewgious rendered his difficulty a thousand times the greater by unexpectedly striking in with:

‘No to be sure; he may not!’

After that, they all sat silent; the silence of Mr. Bazzard being occasioned by slumber.

‘His responsibility is very great, though,’ said Mr. Grewgious at length, with his eyes on the fire.

Edwin nodded assent, with his eyes on the fire.

‘And let him be sure that he trifles with no one,’ said Mr. Grewgious; ‘neither with himself, nor with any other.’

Edwin bit his lip again, and still sat looking at the fire.

‘He must not make a plaything of a treasure. Woe betide him if he does! Let him take that well to heart,’ said Mr. Grewgious.

Though he said these things in short sentences, much as the supposititious charity boy just now referred to might have repeated a verse or two from the Book of Proverbs, there was something dreamy (for so literal a man) in the way in which he now shook his right forefinger at the live coals in the grate, and again fell silent.

But not for long. As he sat upright and stiff in his chair, he suddenly rapped his knees, like the carved image of some queer Joss or other coming out of its reverie, and said: ‘We must finish this bottle, Mr. Edwin. Let me help you. I’ll help Bazzard too, though he IS asleep. He mightn’t like it else.’

He helped them both, and helped himself, and drained his glass, and stood it bottom upward on the table, as though he had just caught a bluebottle in it.

‘And now, Mr. Edwin,’ he proceeded, wiping his mouth and hands upon his handkerchief: ‘to a little piece of business. You received from me, the other day, a certified copy of Miss Rosa’s father’s will. You knew its contents before, but you received it from me as a matter of business. I should have sent it to Mr. Jasper, but for Miss Rosa’s wishing it to come straight to you, in preference. You received it?’

‘Quite safely, sir.’

‘You should have acknowledged its receipt,’ said Mr. Grewgious; ‘business being business all the world over. However, you did not.’

‘I meant to have acknowledged it when I first came in this evening, sir.’

‘Not a business-like acknowledgment,’ returned Mr. Grewgious; ‘however, let that pass. Now, in that document you have observed a few words of kindly allusion to its being left to me to discharge a little trust, confided to me in conversation, at such time as I in my discretion may think best.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Mr. Edwin, it came into my mind just now, when I was looking at the fire, that I could, in my discretion, acquit myself of that trust at no better time than the present. Favour me with your attention, half a minute.’

He took a bunch of keys from his pocket, singled out by the candle-light the key he wanted, and then, with a candle in his hand, went to a bureau or escritoire, unlocked it, touched the spring of a little secret drawer, and took from it an ordinary ring-case made for a single ring. With this in his hand, he returned to his chair. As he held it up for the young man to see, his hand trembled.

‘Mr. Edwin, this rose of diamonds and rubies delicately set in gold, was a ring belonging to Miss Rosa’s mother. It was removed from her dead hand, in my presence, with such distracted grief as I hope it may never be my lot to contemplate again. Hard man as I am, I am not hard enough for that. See how bright these stones shine!’ opening the case. ‘And yet the eyes that were so much brighter, and that so often looked upon them with a light and a proud heart, have been ashes among ashes, and dust among dust, some years! If I had any imagination (which it is needless to say I have not), I might imagine that the lasting beauty of these stones was almost cruel.’

He closed the case again as he spoke.

‘This ring was given to the young lady who was drowned so early in her beautiful and happy career, by her husband, when they first plighted their faith to one another. It was he who removed it from her unconscious hand, and it was he who, when his death drew very near, placed it in mine. The trust in which I received it, was, that, you and Miss Rosa growing to manhood and womanhood, and your betrothal prospering and coming to maturity, I should give it to you to place upon her finger. Failing those desired results, it was to remain in my possession.’

Some trouble was in the young man’s face, and some indecision was in the action of his hand, as Mr. Grewgious, looking steadfastly at him, gave him the ring.

‘Your placing it on her finger,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘will be the solemn seal upon your strict fidelity to the living and the dead. You are going to her, to make the last irrevocable preparations for your marriage. Take it with you.’

The young man took the little case, and placed it in his breast.

‘If anything should be amiss, if anything should be even slightly wrong, between you; if you should have any secret consciousness that you are committing yourself to this step for no higher reason than because you have long been accustomed to look forward to it; then,’ said Mr. Grewgious, ‘I charge you once more, by the living and by the dead, to bring that ring back to me!’

Here Bazzard awoke himself by his own snoring; and, as is usual in such cases, sat apoplectically staring at vacancy, as defying vacancy to accuse him of having been asleep.

‘Bazzard!’ said Mr. Grewgious, harder than ever.

‘I follow you, sir,’ said Bazzard, ‘and I have been following you.’

‘In discharge of a trust, I have handed Mr. Edwin Drood a ring of diamonds and rubies. You see?’

Edwin reproduced the little case, and opened it; and Bazzard looked into it.

‘I follow you both, sir,’ returned Bazzard, ‘and I witness the transaction.’

Evidently anxious to get away and be alone, Edwin Drood now resumed his outer clothing, muttering something about time and appointments. The fog was reported no clearer (by the flying waiter, who alighted from a speculative flight in the coffee interest), but he went out into it; and Bazzard, after his manner, ‘followed’ him.

Mr. Grewgious, left alone, walked softly and slowly to and fro, for an hour and more. He was restless to-night, and seemed dispirited.

‘I hope I have done right,’ he said. ‘The appeal to him seemed necessary. It was hard to lose the ring, and yet it must have gone from me very soon.’

He closed the empty little drawer with a sigh, and shut and locked the escritoire, and came back to the solitary fireside.

‘Her ring,’ he went on. ‘Will it come back to me? My mind hangs about her ring very uneasily to-night. But that is explainable. I have had it so long, and I have prized it so much! I wonder —’

He was in a wondering mood as well as a restless; for, though he checked himself at that point, and took another walk, he resumed his wondering when he sat down again.

‘I wonder (for the ten-thousandth time, and what a weak fool I, for what can it signify now!) whether he confided the charge of their orphan child to me, because he knew — Good God, how like her mother she has become!’

‘I wonder whether he ever so much as suspected that some one doted on her, at a hopeless, speechless distance, when he struck in and won her. I wonder whether it ever crept into his mind who that unfortunate some one was!’

‘I wonder whether I shall sleep to-night! At all events, I will shut out the world with the bedclothes, and try.’

Mr. Grewgious crossed the staircase to his raw and foggy bedroom, and was soon ready for bed. Dimly catching sight of his face in the misty looking-glass, he held his candle to it for a moment.

‘A likely some one, you, to come into anybody’s thoughts in such an aspect!’ he exclaimed. ‘There! there! there! Get to bed, poor man, and cease to jabber!’

With that, he extinguished his light, pulled up the bedclothes around him, and with another sigh shut out the world. And yet there are such unexplored romantic nooks in the unlikeliest men, that even old tinderous and touchwoody P. J. T. Possibly Jabbered Thus, at some odd times, in or about seventeen-forty-seven.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:30