When John Jasper recovered from his fit or swoon, he found himself bein_ended by Mr. and Mrs. Tope, whom his visitor had summoned for the purpose.
His visitor, wooden of aspect, sat stiffly in a chair, with his hands upon hi_nees, watching his recovery.
'There! You've come to nicely now, sir,' said the tearful Mrs. Tope; 'you wer_horoughly worn out, and no wonder!'
'A man,' said Mr. Grewgious, with his usual air of repeating a lesson, 'canno_ave his rest broken, and his mind cruelly tormented, and his body overtaxe_y fatigue, without being thoroughly worn out.'
'I fear I have alarmed you?' Jasper apologised faintly, when he was helpe_nto his easy-chair.
'Not at all, I thank you,' answered Mr. Grewgious.
'You are too considerate.'
'Not at all, I thank you,' answered Mr. Grewgious again.
'You must take some wine, sir,' said Mrs. Tope, 'and the jelly that I ha_eady for you, and that you wouldn't put your lips to at noon, though I warne_ou what would come of it, you know, and you not breakfasted; and you mus_ave a wing of the roast fowl that has been put back twenty times if it's bee_ut back once. It shall all be on table in five minutes, and this goo_entleman belike will stop and see you take it.'
This good gentleman replied with a snort, which might mean yes, or no, o_nything or nothing, and which Mrs. Tope would have found highly mystifying, but that her attention was divided by the service of the table.
'You will take something with me?' said Jasper, as the cloth was laid.
'I couldn't get a morsel down my throat, I thank you,' answered Mr. Grewgious.
Jasper both ate and drank almost voraciously. Combined with the hurry in hi_ode of doing it, was an evident indifference to the taste of what he took, suggesting that he ate and drank to fortify himself against any other failur_f the spirits, far more than to gratify his palate. Mr. Grewgious in th_eantime sat upright, with no expression in his face, and a hard kind o_mperturbably polite protest all over him: as though he would have said, i_eply to some invitation to discourse; 'I couldn't originate the faintes_pproach to an observation on any subject whatever, I thank you.'
'Do you know,' said Jasper, when he had pushed away his plate and glass, an_ad sat meditating for a few minutes: 'do you know that I find some crumbs o_omfort in the communication with which you have so much amazed me?'
'Do you?' returned Mr. Grewgious, pretty plainly adding the unspoken clause:
'I don't, I thank you!'
'After recovering from the shock of a piece of news of my dear boy, s_ntirely unexpected, and so destructive of all the castles I had built fo_im; and after having had time to think of it; yes.'
'I shall be glad to pick up your crumbs,' said Mr. Grewgious, dryly.
'Is there not, or is there — if I deceive myself, tell me so, and shorten m_ain — is there not, or is there, hope that, finding himself in this ne_osition, and becoming sensitively alive to the awkward burden of explanation, in this quarter, and that, and the other, with which it would load him, h_voided the awkwardness, and took to flight?'
'Such a thing might be,' said Mr. Grewgious, pondering.
'Such a thing has been. I have read of cases in which people, rather than fac_ seven days' wonder, and have to account for themselves to the idle an_mpertinent, have taken themselves away, and been long unheard of.'
'I believe such things have happened,' said Mr. Grewgious, pondering still.
'When I had, and could have, no suspicion,' pursued Jasper, eagerly followin_he new track, 'that the dear lost boy had withheld anything from me — most o_ll, such a leading matter as this — what gleam of light was there for me i_he whole black sky? When I supposed that his intended wife was here, and hi_arriage close at hand, how could I entertain the possibility of hi_oluntarily leaving this place, in a manner that would be so unaccountable, capricious, and cruel? But now that I know what you have told me, is there n_ittle chink through which day pierces? Supposing him to have disappeared o_is own act, is not his disappearance more accountable and less cruel? Th_act of his having just parted from your ward, is in itself a sort of reaso_or his going away. It does not make his mysterious departure the less crue_o me, it is true; but it relieves it of cruelty to her.'
Mr. Grewgious could not but assent to this.
'And even as to me,' continued Jasper, still pursuing the new track, wit_rdour, and, as he did so, brightening with hope: 'he knew that you wer_oming to me; he knew that you were intrusted to tell me what you have tol_e; if your doing so has awakened a new train of thought in my perplexed mind, it reasonably follows that, from the same premises, he might have foreseen th_nferences that I should draw. Grant that he did foresee them; and even th_ruelty to me — and who am I! — John Jasper, Music Master, vanishes!' —
Once more, Mr. Grewgious could not but assent to this.
'I have had my distrusts, and terrible distrusts they have been,' said Jasper;
'but your disclosure, overpowering as it was at first — showing me that my ow_ear boy had had a great disappointing reservation from me, who so fondl_oved him, kindles hope within me. You do not extinguish it when I state it, but admit it to be a reasonable hope. I begin to believe it possible:' here h_lasped his hands: 'that he may have disappeared from among us of his ow_ccord, and that he may yet be alive and well.'
Mr. Crisparkle came in at the moment. To whom Mr. Jasper repeated:
'I begin to believe it possible that he may have disappeared of his ow_ccord, and may yet be alive and well.'
Mr. Crisparkle taking a seat, and inquiring: 'Why so?' Mr. Jasper repeated th_rguments he had just set forth. If they had been less plausible than the_ere, the good Minor Canon's mind would have been in a state of preparation t_eceive them, as exculpatory of his unfortunate pupil. But he, too, did reall_ttach great importance to the lost young man's having been, so immediatel_efore his disappearance, placed in a new and embarrassing relation toward_very one acquainted with his projects and affairs; and the fact seemed to hi_o present the question in a new light.
'I stated to Mr. Sapsea, when we waited on him,' said Jasper: as he really ha_one: 'that there was no quarrel or difference between the two young men a_heir last meeting. We all know that their first meeting was unfortunatel_ery far from amicable; but all went smoothly and quietly when they were las_ogether at my house. My dear boy was not in his usual spirits; he wa_epressed — I noticed that — and I am bound henceforth to dwell upon th_ircumstance the more, now that I know there was a special reason for hi_eing depressed: a reason, moreover, which may possibly have induced him t_bsent himself.'
'I pray to Heaven it may turn out so!' exclaimed Mr. Crisparkle.
'I pray to Heaven it may turn out so!' repeated Jasper. 'You know — and Mr.
Grewgious should now know likewise — that I took a great prepossession agains_r. Neville Landless, arising out of his furious conduct on that firs_ccasion. You know that I came to you, extremely apprehensive, on my dea_oy's behalf, of his mad violence. You know that I even entered in my Diary, and showed the entry to you, that I had dark forebodings against him. Mr.
Grewgious ought to be possessed of the whole case. He shall not, through an_uppression of mine, be informed of a part of it, and kept in ignorance o_nother part of it. I wish him to be good enough to understand that th_ommunication he has made to me has hopefully influenced my mind, in spite o_ts having been, before this mysterious occurrence took place, profoundl_mpressed against young Landless.'
This fairness troubled the Minor Canon much. He felt that he was not as ope_n his own dealing. He charged against himself reproachfully that he ha_uppressed, so far, the two points of a second strong outbreak of tempe_gainst Edwin Drood on the part of Neville, and of the passion of jealous_aving, to his own certain knowledge, flamed up in Neville's breast agains_im. He was convinced of Neville's innocence of any part in the ugl_isappearance; and yet so many little circumstances combined so wofull_gainst him, that he dreaded to add two more to their cumulative weight. H_as among the truest of men; but he had been balancing in his mind, much t_ts distress, whether his volunteering to tell these two fragments of truth, at this time, would not be tantamount to a piecing together of falsehood i_he place of truth.
However, here was a model before him. He hesitated no longer. Addressing Mr.
Grewgious, as one placed in authority by the revelation he had brought to bea_n the mystery (and surpassingly Angular Mr. Grewgious became when he foun_imself in that unexpected position), Mr. Crisparkle bore his testimony to Mr.
Jasper's strict sense of justice, and, expressing his absolute confidence i_he complete clearance of his pupil from the least taint of suspicion, soone_r later, avowed that his confidence in that young gentleman had been formed, in spite of his confidential knowledge that his temper was of the hottest an_iercest, and that it was directly incensed against Mr. Jasper's nephew, b_he circumstance of his romantically supposing himself to be enamoured of th_ame young lady. The sanguine reaction manifest in Mr. Jasper was proof eve_gainst this unlooked-for declaration. It turned him paler; but he repeate_hat he would cling to the hope he had derived from Mr. Grewgious; and that i_o trace of his dear boy were found, leading to the dreadful inference that h_ad been made away with, he would cherish unto the last stretch of possibilit_he idea, that he might have absconded of his own wild will.
Now, it fell out that Mr. Crisparkle, going away from this conference stil_ery uneasy in his mind, and very much troubled on behalf of the young ma_hom he held as a kind of prisoner in his own house, took a memorable nigh_alk.
He walked to Cloisterham Weir.
He often did so, and consequently there was nothing remarkable in hi_ootsteps tending that way. But the preoccupation of his mind so hindered hi_rom planning any walk, or taking heed of the objects he passed, that hi_irst consciousness of being near the Weir, was derived from the sound of th_alling water close at hand.
'How did I come here!' was his first thought, as he stopped.
'Why did I come here!' was his second.
Then, he stood intently listening to the water. A familiar passage in hi_eading, about airy tongues that syllable men's names, rose so unbidden to hi_ar, that he put it from him with his hand, as if it were tangible.
It was starlight. The Weir was full two miles above the spot to which th_oung men had repaired to watch the storm. No search had been made up here, for the tide had been running strongly down, at that time of the night o_hristmas Eve, and the likeliest places for the discovery of a body, if _atal accident had happened under such circumstances, all lay — both when th_ide ebbed, and when it flowed again — between that spot and the sea. Th_ater came over the Weir, with its usual sound on a cold starlight night, an_ittle could be seen of it; yet Mr. Crisparkle had a strange idea tha_omething unusual hung about the place.
He reasoned with himself: What was it? Where was it? Put it to the proof.
Which sense did it address?
No sense reported anything unusual there. He listened again, and his sense o_earing again checked the water coming over the Weir, with its usual sound o_ cold starlight night.
Knowing very well that the mystery with which his mind was occupied, might o_tself give the place this haunted air, he strained those hawk's eyes of hi_or the correction of his sight. He got closer to the Weir, and peered at it_ell-known posts and timbers. Nothing in the least unusual was remotel_hadowed forth. But he resolved that he would come back early in the morning.
The Weir ran through his broken sleep, all night, and he was back again a_unrise. It was a bright frosty morning. The whole composition before him, when he stood where he had stood last night, was clearly discernible in it_inutest details. He had surveyed it closely for some minutes, and was abou_o withdraw his eyes, when they were attracted keenly to one spot.
He turned his back upon the Weir, and looked far away at the sky, and at th_arth, and then looked again at that one spot. It caught his sight agai_mmediately, and he concentrated his vision upon it. He could not lose it now, though it was but such a speck in the landscape. It fascinated his sight. Hi_ands began plucking off his coat. For it struck him that at that spot — _orner of the Weir — something glistened, which did not move and come ove_ith the glistening water-drops, but remained stationary.
He assured himself of this, he threw off his clothes, he plunged into the ic_ater, and swam for the spot. Climbing the timbers, he took from them, caugh_mong their interstices by its chain, a gold watch, bearing engraved upon it_ack E. D.
He brought the watch to the bank, swam to the Weir again, climbed it, an_ived off. He knew every hole and corner of all the depths, and dived an_ived and dived, until he could bear the cold no more. His notion was, that h_ould find the body; he only found a shirt-pin sticking in some mud and ooze.
With these discoveries he returned to Cloisterham, and, taking Nevill_andless with him, went straight to the Mayor. Mr. Jasper was sent for, th_atch and shirt-pin were identified, Neville was detained, and the wildes_renzy and fatuity of evil report rose against him. He was of that vindictiv_nd violent nature, that but for his poor sister, who alone had influence ove_im, and out of whose sight he was never to be trusted, he would be in th_aily commission of murder. Before coming to England he had caused to b_hipped to death sundry 'Natives' — nomadic persons, encamping now in Asia, now in Africa, now in the West Indies, and now at the North Pole — vaguel_upposed in Cloisterham to be always black, always of great virtue, alway_alling themselves Me, and everybody else Massa or Missie (according to sex), and always reading tracts of the obscurest meaning, in broken English, bu_lways accurately understanding them in the purest mother tongue. He ha_early brought Mrs. Crisparkle's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. (Thos_riginal expressions were Mr. Sapsea's.) He had repeatedly said he would hav_r. Crisparkle's life. He had repeatedly said he would have everybody's life, and become in effect the last man. He had been brought down to Cloisterham, from London, by an eminent Philanthropist, and why? Because tha_hilanthropist had expressly declared: 'I owe it to my fellow-creatures tha_e should be, in the words of BENTHAM, where he is the cause of the greates_anger to the smallest number.'
These dropping shots from the blunderbusses of blunderheadedness might no_ave hit him in a vital place. But he had to stand against a trained and well- directed fire of arms of precision too. He had notoriously threatened the los_oung man, and had, according to the showing of his own faithful friend an_utor who strove so hard for him, a cause of bitter animosity (created b_imself, and stated by himself), against that ill-starred fellow. He had arme_imself with an offensive weapon for the fatal night, and he had gone of_arly in the morning, after making preparations for departure. He had bee_ound with traces of blood on him; truly, they might have been wholly cause_s he represented, but they might not, also. On a search-warrant being issue_or the examination of his room, clothes, and so forth, it was discovered tha_e had destroyed all his papers, and rearranged all his possessions, on th_ery afternoon of the disappearance. The watch found at the Weir wa_hallenged by the jeweller as one he had wound and set for Edwin Drood, a_wenty minutes past two on that same afternoon; and it had run down, befor_eing cast into the water; and it was the jeweller's positive opinion that i_ad never been re-wound. This would justify the hypothesis that the watch wa_aken from him not long after he left Mr. Jasper's house at midnight, i_ompany with the last person seen with him, and that it had been thrown awa_fter being retained some hours. Why thrown away? If he had been murdered, an_o artfully disfigured, or concealed, or both, as that the murderer hope_dentification to be impossible, except from something that he wore, assuredl_he murderer would seek to remove from the body the most lasting, the bes_nown, and the most easily recognisable, things upon it. Those things would b_he watch and shirt-pin. As to his opportunities of casting them into th_iver; if he were the object of these suspicions, they were easy. For, he ha_een seen by many persons, wandering about on that side of the city — indee_n all sides of it — in a miserable and seemingly half-distracted manner. A_o the choice of the spot, obviously such criminating evidence had better tak_ts chance of being found anywhere, rather than upon himself, or in hi_ossession. Concerning the reconciliatory nature of the appointed meetin_etween the two young men, very little could be made of that in youn_andless's favour; for it distinctly appeared that the meeting originated, no_ith him, but with Mr. Crisparkle, and that it had been urged on by Mr.
Crisparkle; and who could say how unwillingly, or in what ill- conditione_ood, his enforced pupil had gone to it? The more his case was looked into, the weaker it became in every point. Even the broad suggestion that the los_oung man had absconded, was rendered additionally improbable on the showin_f the young lady from whom he had so lately parted; for; what did she say, with great earnestness and sorrow, when interrogated? That he had, expressl_nd enthusiastically, planned with her, that he would await the arrival of he_uardian, Mr. Grewgious. And yet, be it observed, he disappeared before tha_entleman appeared.
On the suspicions thus urged and supported, Neville was detained, and re- detained, and the search was pressed on every hand, and Jasper laboured nigh_nd day. But nothing more was found. No discovery being made, which proved th_ost man to be dead, it at length became necessary to release the perso_uspected of having made away with him. Neville was set at large. Then, _onsequence ensued which Mr. Crisparkle had too well foreseen. Neville mus_eave the place, for the place shunned him and cast him out. Even had it no_een so, the dear old china shepherdess would have worried herself to deat_ith fears for her son, and with general trepidation occasioned by thei_aving such an inmate. Even had that not been so, the authority to which th_inor Canon deferred officially, would have settled the point.
'Mr. Crisparkle,' quoth the Dean, 'human justice may err, but it must ac_ccording to its lights. The days of taking sanctuary are past. This young ma_ust not take sanctuary with us.'
'You mean that he must leave my house, sir?'
'Mr. Crisparkle,' returned the prudent Dean, 'I claim no authority in you_ouse. I merely confer with you, on the painful necessity you find yoursel_nder, of depriving this young man of the great advantages of your counsel an_nstruction.'
'It is very lamentable, sir,' Mr. Crisparkle represented.
'Very much so,' the Dean assented.
'And if it be a necessity —' Mr. Crisparkle faltered.
'As you unfortunately find it to be,' returned the Dean.
Mr. Crisparkle bowed submissively: 'It is hard to prejudge his case, sir, bu_ am sensible that —'
'Just so. Perfectly. As you say, Mr. Crisparkle,' interposed the Dean, noddin_is head smoothly, 'there is nothing else to be done. No doubt, no doubt.
There is no alternative, as your good sense has discovered.'
'I am entirely satisfied of his perfect innocence, sir, nevertheless.'
'We-e-ell!' said the Dean, in a more confidential tone, and slightly glancin_round him, 'I would not say so, generally. Not generally. Enough of suspicio_ttaches to him to — no, I think I would not say so, generally.'
Mr. Crisparkle bowed again.
'It does not become us, perhaps,' pursued the Dean, 'to be partisans. No_artisans. We clergy keep our hearts warm and our heads cool, and we hold _udicious middle course.'
'I hope you do not object, sir, to my having stated in public, emphatically, that he will reappear here, whenever any new suspicion may be awakened, or an_ew circumstance may come to light in this extraordinary matter?'
'Not at all,' returned the Dean. 'And yet, do you know, I don't think,' with _ery nice and neat emphasis on those two words: 'I don't think I would stat_t emphatically. State it? Ye-e-es! But emphatically? No-o-o. I think not. I_oint of fact, Mr. Crisparkle, keeping our hearts warm and our heads cool, w_lergy need do nothing emphatically.'
So Minor Canon Row knew Neville Landless no more; and he went whithersoever h_ould, or could, with a blight upon his name and fame.
It was not until then that John Jasper silently resumed his place in th_hoir. Haggard and red-eyed, his hopes plainly had deserted him, his sanguin_ood was gone, and all his worst misgivings had come back. A day or tw_fterwards, while unrobing, he took his Diary from a pocket of his coat, turned the leaves, and with an impressive look, and without one spoken word, handed this entry to Mr. Crisparkle to read:
'My dear boy is murdered. The discovery of the watch and shirt-pin convince_e that he was murdered that night, and that his jewellery was taken from hi_o prevent identification by its means. All the delusive hopes I had founde_n his separation from his betrothed wife, I give to the winds. They peris_efore this fatal discovery. I now swear, and record the oath on this page, That I nevermore will discuss this mystery with any human creature until _old the clue to it in my hand. That I never will relax in my secrecy or in m_earch. That I will fasten the crime of the murder of my dear dead boy upo_he murderer. And, That I devote myself to his destruction.'