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Chapter 7 More Confidences than one

  • 'I KNOW very little of that gentleman, sir,' said Neville to the Minor Cano_s they turned back.
  • 'You know very little of your guardian?' the Minor Canon repeated.
  • 'Almost nothing!'
  • 'How came he —'
  • 'To be my guardian? I'll tell you, sir. I suppose you know that we come (m_ister and I) from Ceylon?'
  • 'Indeed, no.'
  • 'I wonder at that. We lived with a stepfather there. Our mother died there, when we were little children. We have had a wretched existence. She made hi_ur guardian, and he was a miserly wretch who grudged us food to eat, an_lothes to wear. At his death, he passed us over to this man; for no bette_eason that I know of, than his being a friend or connexion of his, whose nam_as always in print and catching his attention.'
  • 'That was lately, I suppose?'
  • 'Quite lately, sir. This stepfather of ours was a cruel brute as well as _rinding one. It is well he died when he did, or I might have killed him.'
  • Mr. Crisparkle stopped short in the moonlight and looked at his hopeful pupi_n consternation.
  • 'I surprise you, sir?' he said, with a quick change to a submissive manner.
  • 'You shock me; unspeakably shock me.'
  • The pupil hung his head for a little while, as they walked on, and then said:
  • 'You never saw him beat your sister. I have seen him beat mine, more than onc_r twice, and I never forgot it.'
  • 'Nothing,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'not even a beloved and beautiful sister'_ears under dastardly ill-usage;' he became less severe, in spite of himself, as his indignation rose; 'could justify those horrible expressions that yo_sed.'
  • 'I am sorry I used them, and especially to you, sir. I beg to recall them. Bu_ermit me to set you right on one point. You spoke of my sister's tears. M_ister would have let him tear her to pieces, before she would have let hi_elieve that he could make her shed a tear.'
  • Mr. Crisparkle reviewed those mental notes of his, and was neither at al_urprised to hear it, nor at all disposed to question it.
  • 'Perhaps you will think it strange, sir,' — this was said in a hesitatin_oice — 'that I should so soon ask you to allow me to confide in you, and t_ave the kindness to hear a word or two from me in my defence?'
  • 'Defence?' Mr. Crisparkle repeated. 'You are not on your defence, Mr.
  • Neville.'
  • 'I think I am, sir. At least I know I should be, if you were better acquainte_ith my character.'
  • 'Well, Mr. Neville,' was the rejoinder. 'What if you leave me to find it out?'
  • 'Since it is your pleasure, sir,' answered the young man, with a quick chang_n his manner to sullen disappointment: 'since it is your pleasure to check m_n my impulse, I must submit.'
  • There was that in the tone of this short speech which made the conscientiou_an to whom it was addressed uneasy. It hinted to him that he might, withou_eaning it, turn aside a trustfulness beneficial to a mis-shapen young min_nd perhaps to his own power of directing and improving it. They were withi_ight of the lights in his windows, and he stopped.
  • 'Let us turn back and take a turn or two up and down, Mr. Neville, or you ma_ot have time to finish what you wish to say to me. You are hasty in thinkin_hat I mean to check you. Quite the contrary. I invite your confidence.'
  • 'You have invited it, sir, without knowing it, ever since I came here. I say
  • "ever since," as if I had been here a week. The truth is, we came here (m_ister and I) to quarrel with you, and affront you, and break away again.'
  • 'Really?' said Mr. Crisparkle, at a dead loss for anything else to say.
  • 'You see, we could not know what you were beforehand, sir; could we?'
  • 'Clearly not,' said Mr. Crisparkle.
  • 'And having liked no one else with whom we have ever been brought int_ontact, we had made up our minds not to like you.'
  • 'Really?' said Mr. Crisparkle again.
  • 'But we do like you, sir, and we see an unmistakable difference between you_ouse and your reception of us, and anything else we have ever known. This — and my happening to be alone with you — and everything around us seeming s_uiet and peaceful after Mr. Honeythunder's departure — and Cloisterham bein_o old and grave and beautiful, with the moon shining on it — these thing_nclined me to open my heart.'
  • 'I quite understand, Mr. Neville. And it is salutary to listen to suc_nfluences.'
  • 'In describing my own imperfections, sir, I must ask you not to suppose that _m describing my sister's. She has come out of the disadvantages of ou_iserable life, as much better than I am, as that Cathedral tower is highe_han those chimneys.'
  • Mr. Crisparkle in his own breast was not so sure of this.
  • 'I have had, sir, from my earliest remembrance, to suppress a deadly an_itter hatred. This has made me secret and revengeful. I have been alway_yrannically held down by the strong hand. This has driven me, in my weakness, to the resource of being false and mean. I have been stinted of education, liberty, money, dress, the very necessaries of life, the commonest pleasure_f childhood, the commonest possessions of youth. This has caused me to b_tterly wanting in I don't know what emotions, or remembrances, or goo_nstincts — I have not even a name for the thing, you see! — that you have ha_o work upon in other young men to whom you have been accustomed.'
  • 'This is evidently true. But this is not encouraging,' thought Mr. Crisparkl_s they turned again.
  • 'And to finish with, sir: I have been brought up among abject and servil_ependents, of an inferior race, and I may easily have contracted som_ffinity with them. Sometimes, I don't know but that it may be a drop of wha_s tigerish in their blood.'
  • 'As in the case of that remark just now,' thought Mr. Crisparkle.
  • 'In a last word of reference to my sister, sir (we are twin children), yo_ught to know, to her honour, that nothing in our misery ever subdued her, though it often cowed me. When we ran away from it (we ran away four times i_ix years, to be soon brought back and cruelly punished), the flight wa_lways of her planning and leading. Each time she dressed as a boy, and showe_he daring of a man. I take it we were seven years old when we first decamped; but I remember, when I lost the pocket-knife with which she was to have cu_er hair short, how desperately she tried to tear it out, or bite it off. _ave nothing further to say, sir, except that I hope you will bear with me an_ake allowance for me.'
  • 'Of that, Mr. Neville, you may be sure,' returned the Minor Canon. 'I don'_reach more than I can help, and I will not repay your confidence with _ermon. But I entreat you to bear in mind, very seriously and steadily, tha_f I am to do you any good, it can only be with your own assistance; and tha_ou can only render that, efficiently, by seeking aid from Heaven.'
  • 'I will try to do my part, sir.'
  • 'And, Mr. Neville, I will try to do mine. Here is my hand on it. May God bles_ur endeavours!'
  • They were now standing at his house-door, and a cheerful sound of voices an_aughter was heard within.
  • 'We will take one more turn before going in,' said Mr. Crisparkle, 'for I wan_o ask you a question. When you said you were in a changed mind concerning me, you spoke, not only for yourself, but for your sister too?'
  • 'Undoubtedly I did, sir.'
  • 'Excuse me, Mr. Neville, but I think you have had no opportunity o_ommunicating with your sister, since I met you. Mr. Honeythunder was ver_loquent; but perhaps I may venture to say, without ill- nature, that h_ather monopolised the occasion. May you not have answered for your siste_ithout sufficient warrant?'
  • Neville shook his head with a proud smile.
  • 'You don't know, sir, yet, what a complete understanding can exist between m_ister and me, though no spoken word — perhaps hardly as much as a look — ma_ave passed between us. She not only feels as I have described, but she ver_ell knows that I am taking this opportunity of speaking to you, both for he_nd for myself.'
  • Mr. Crisparkle looked in his face, with some incredulity; but his fac_xpressed such absolute and firm conviction of the truth of what he said, tha_r. Crisparkle looked at the pavement, and mused, until they came to his doo_gain.
  • 'I will ask for one more turn, sir, this time,' said the young man, with _ather heightened colour rising in his face. 'But for Mr. Honeythunder's — _hink you called it eloquence, sir?' (somewhat slyly.)
  • 'I — yes, I called it eloquence,' said Mr. Crisparkle.
  • 'But for Mr. Honeythunder's eloquence, I might have had no need to ask yo_hat I am going to ask you. This Mr. Edwin Drood, sir: I think that's th_ame?'
  • 'Quite correct,' said Mr. Crisparkle. 'D-r-double o-d.'
  • 'Does he — or did he — read with you, sir?'
  • 'Never, Mr. Neville. He comes here visiting his relation, Mr. Jasper.'
  • 'Is Miss Bud his relation too, sir?'
  • ('Now, why should he ask that, with sudden superciliousness?' thought Mr.
  • Crisparkle.) Then he explained, aloud, what he knew of the little story o_heir betrothal.
  • 'O! That's it, is it?' said the young man. 'I understand his air o_roprietorship now!'
  • This was said so evidently to himself, or to anybody rather than Mr.
  • Crisparkle, that the latter instinctively felt as if to notice it would b_lmost tantamount to noticing a passage in a letter which he had read b_hance over the writer's shoulder. A moment afterwards they re-entered th_ouse.
  • Mr. Jasper was seated at the piano as they came into his drawing- room, an_as accompanying Miss Rosebud while she sang. It was a consequence of hi_laying the accompaniment without notes, and of her being a heedless littl_reature, very apt to go wrong, that he followed her lips most attentively, with his eyes as well as hands; carefully and softly hinting the key-note fro_ime to time. Standing with an arm drawn round her, but with a face far mor_ntent on Mr. Jasper than on her singing, stood Helena, between whom and he_rother an instantaneous recognition passed, in which Mr. Crisparkle saw, o_hought he saw, the understanding that had been spoken of, flash out. Mr.
  • Neville then took his admiring station, leaning against the piano, opposit_he singer; Mr. Crisparkle sat down by the china shepherdess; Edwin Droo_allantly furled and unfurled Miss Twinkleton's fan; and that lady passivel_laimed that sort of exhibitor's proprietorship in the accomplishment on view, which Mr. Tope, the Verger, daily claimed in the Cathedral service.
  • The song went on. It was a sorrowful strain of parting, and the fresh youn_oice was very plaintive and tender. As Jasper watched the pretty lips, an_ver and again hinted the one note, as though it were a low whisper fro_imself, the voice became less steady, until all at once the singer broke int_ burst of tears, and shrieked out, with her hands over her eyes: 'I can'_ear this! I am frightened! Take me away!'
  • With one swift turn of her lithe figure Helena laid the little beauty on _ofa, as if she had never caught her up. Then, on one knee beside her, an_ith one hand upon her rosy mouth, while with the other she appealed to al_he rest, Helena said to them: 'It's nothing; it's all over; don't speak t_er for one minute, and she is well!'
  • Jasper's hands had, in the same instant, lifted themselves from the keys, an_ere now poised above them, as though he waited to resume. In that attitude h_et sat quiet: not even looking round, when all the rest had changed thei_laces and were reassuring one another.
  • 'Pussy's not used to an audience; that's the fact,' said Edwin Drood. 'She go_ervous, and couldn't hold out. Besides, Jack, you are such a conscientiou_aster, and require so much, that I believe you make her afraid of you. N_onder.'
  • 'No wonder,' repeated Helena.
  • 'There, Jack, you hear! You would be afraid of him, under simila_ircumstances, wouldn't you, Miss Landless?'
  • 'Not under any circumstances,' returned Helena.
  • Jasper brought down his hands, looked over his shoulder, and begged to than_iss Landless for her vindication of his character. Then he fell to dumbl_laying, without striking the notes, while his little pupil was taken to a_pen window for air, and was otherwise petted and restored. When she wa_rought back, his place was empty. 'Jack's gone, Pussy,' Edwin told her. 'I a_ore than half afraid he didn't like to be charged with being the Monster wh_ad frightened you.' But she answered never a word, and shivered, as if the_ad made her a little too cold.
  • Miss Twinkleton now opining that indeed these were late hours, Mrs.
  • Crisparkle, for finding ourselves outside the walls of the Nuns' House, an_hat we who undertook the formation of the future wives and mothers of England (the last words in a lower voice, as requiring to be communicated i_onfidence) were really bound (voice coming up again) to set a better exampl_han one of rakish habits, wrappers were put in requisition, and the two youn_avaliers volunteered to see the ladies home. It was soon done, and the gat_f the Nuns' House closed upon them.
  • The boarders had retired, and only Mrs. Tisher in solitary vigil awaited th_ew pupil. Her bedroom being within Rosa's, very little introduction o_xplanation was necessary, before she was placed in charge of her new friend, and left for the night.
  • 'This is a blessed relief, my dear,' said Helena. 'I have been dreading al_ay, that I should be brought to bay at this time.'
  • 'There are not many of us,' returned Rosa, 'and we are good-natured girls; a_east the others are; I can answer for them.'
  • 'I can answer for you,' laughed Helena, searching the lovely little face wit_er dark, fiery eyes, and tenderly caressing the small figure. 'You will be _riend to me, won't you?'
  • 'I hope so. But the idea of my being a friend to you seems too absurd, though.'
  • 'Why?'
  • 'O, I am such a mite of a thing, and you are so womanly and handsome. You see_o have resolution and power enough to crush me. I shrink into nothing by th_ide of your presence even.'
  • 'I am a neglected creature, my dear, unacquainted with all accomplishments, sensitively conscious that I have everything to learn, and deeply ashamed t_wn my ignorance.'
  • 'And yet you acknowledge everything to me!' said Rosa.
  • 'My pretty one, can I help it? There is a fascination in you.'
  • 'O! is there though?' pouted Rosa, half in jest and half in earnest. 'What _ity Master Eddy doesn't feel it more!'
  • Of course her relations towards that young gentleman had been already imparte_n Minor Canon Corner.
  • 'Why, surely he must love you with all his heart!' cried Helena, with a_arnestness that threatened to blaze into ferocity if he didn't.
  • 'Eh? O, well, I suppose he does,' said Rosa, pouting again; 'I am sure I hav_o right to say he doesn't. Perhaps it's my fault. Perhaps I am not as nice t_im as I ought to be. I don't think I am. But it is so ridiculous!'
  • Helena's eyes demanded what was.
  • 'We are,' said Rosa, answering as if she had spoken. 'We are such a ridiculou_ouple. And we are always quarrelling.'
  • 'Why?'
  • 'Because we both know we are ridiculous, my dear!' Rosa gave that answer as i_t were the most conclusive answer in the world.
  • Helena's masterful look was intent upon her face for a few moments, and the_he impulsively put out both her hands and said:
  • 'You will be my friend and help me?'
  • 'Indeed, my dear, I will,' replied Rosa, in a tone of affectionat_hildishness that went straight and true to her heart; 'I will be as good _riend as such a mite of a thing can be to such a noble creature as you. An_e a friend to me, please; I don't understand myself: and I want a friend wh_an understand me, very much indeed.'
  • Helena Landless kissed her, and retaining both her hands said:
  • 'Who is Mr. Jasper?'
  • Rosa turned aside her head in answering: 'Eddy's uncle, and my music-master.'
  • 'You do not love him?'
  • 'Ugh!' She put her hands up to her face, and shook with fear or horror.
  • 'You know that he loves you?'
  • 'O, don't, don't, don't!' cried Rosa, dropping on her knees, and clinging t_er new resource. 'Don't tell me of it! He terrifies me. He haunts m_houghts, like a dreadful ghost. I feel that I am never safe from him. I fee_s if he could pass in through the wall when he is spoken of.' She actuall_id look round, as if she dreaded to see him standing in the shadow behin_er.
  • 'Try to tell me more about it, darling.'
  • 'Yes, I will, I will. Because you are so strong. But hold me the while, an_tay with me afterwards.'
  • 'My child! You speak as if he had threatened you in some dark way.'
  • 'He has never spoken to me about — that. Never.'
  • 'What has he done?'
  • 'He has made a slave of me with his looks. He has forced me to understand him, without his saying a word; and he has forced me to keep silence, without hi_ttering a threat. When I play, he never moves his eyes from my hands. When _ing, he never moves his eyes from my lips. When he corrects me, and strikes _ote, or a chord, or plays a passage, he himself is in the sounds, whisperin_hat he pursues me as a lover, and commanding me to keep his secret. I avoi_is eyes, but he forces me to see them without looking at them. Even when _laze comes over them (which is sometimes the case), and he seems to wande_way into a frightful sort of dream in which he threatens most, he obliges m_o know it, and to know that he is sitting close at my side, more terrible t_e than ever.'
  • 'What is this imagined threatening, pretty one? What is threatened?'
  • 'I don't know. I have never even dared to think or wonder what it is.'
  • 'And was this all, to-night?'
  • 'This was all; except that to-night when he watched my lips so closely as _as singing, besides feeling terrified I felt ashamed and passionately hurt.
  • It was as if he kissed me, and I couldn't bear it, but cried out. You mus_ever breathe this to any one. Eddy is devoted to him. But you said to-nigh_hat you would not be afraid of him, under any circumstances, and that give_e — who am so much afraid of him — courage to tell only you. Hold me! Sta_ith me! I am too frightened to be left by myself.'
  • The lustrous gipsy-face drooped over the clinging arms and bosom, and the wil_lack hair fell down protectingly over the childish form. There was _lumbering gleam of fire in the intense dark eyes, though they were the_oftened with compassion and admiration. Let whomsoever it most concerned loo_ell to it!