Books Magazine

Chapter by Chapter: The Mystery of Edwin Drood VI

By Brian Abbott

Chapters Twelve and Thirteen bring us an evening with Durdles and a meeting with Rosa Bud.

“When Mr. Sapsea has nothing better to do … He likes to pass the churchyard with a swelling air of proprietorship, and to encourage in his breast a sort of benignant-landlord feeling, in that he has been bountiful towards that meritorious tenant, Mrs. Sapsea.”  “Mr. Sapsea’s importance has received enhancement, for he has become Mayor of Cloisterham.”

It’s been some time since Drood’s last visit to Cloisterham and in that time Mr. Sapsea “has improved the acquaintance of Mr. Jasper.”  The two disparate men have shared “kindred hospitality.” “What Mr. Sapsea likes in that young man, is, that he is always ready to profit by the wisdom of his elders.”

Durdles
One night, the two men along with the Dean and Mr. Tope, walking through the Cathedral grounds, turn talk to Durdles.  Jasper professes fascination with this strange character to which the Dean turns to Mr. Sapsea and says, “I hope, Mr. Mayor, you will use your study and knowledge of Durdles to the good purpose of exhorting him not to break our worthy and respected Choir Master’s neck; we cannot afford it; his head and voice are much too valuable to us.”

What is it that Jasper does in Durdles’ company?  By his own admission, he says, “making a moonlight expedition with Durdles among the tombs, vaults, towers, and ruins” of the Cathedral grounds.

Later that night, Durdles and Jasper are off on their jaunt.  Durdles warns Jasper about the quick-lime.  “Quick enough to eat your bones.”  Jasper brings along a bottle of spirits, of which Durdles is more than happy to partake.  The stonemason becomes quite drowsy and falls asleep for some time before finally being awakened by Jasper.  In that time what was Jasper up to?

The narrative ends the chapter–and the third installment–by even calling the evening walk an “unaccountable expedition.”  However, some of Jasper’s movements may have been witnessed by young Deputy.  Jasper accosts the boy violently, but Durdles calms him down.

It may not just be her fellow classmates at the Nuns' House saying goodbye.

It may not just be her fellow classmates at the Nuns’ House saying goodbye.

Installment Four, appearing in June 1870, returns to Miss Twinkleton’s where the Christmas recess is beginning.  The young ladies of the Nuns’ House will be going home for a time.  As for Rosa Bud, “So many times had [she] seen such dispersals, and so very little did she know of any other Home.”  This time, however, she will not be alone as her newest friend Helena Landless will also be in residence.

“If Rosebud in her bower now waited Edwin Drood’s coming with an uneasy heart, Edwin for his part was uneasy too.”

The affianced couple, meeting again, go for a walk. They come to an understanding to choose to be like brother and sister and never husband and wife.  When Drood thinks of telling Jasper of the broken engagement, Rosa reacts. “Her swift and intent look at him as he said the words, could no more be recalled than a flash of lightning can.”

Rosa suggests writing to her guardian, Mr. Grewgious, to have him come to Cloisterham and break the news. Drood seems a bit relieved and confesses, “I am not a coward, Rosa, but to tell you a secret, I am a little afraid of Jack!”

In fact, Jasper–having followed them at a distance–sees them exchange an affection.  Rosa and Drood notice him and realize they’ve been followed, but it is Rosa who knows more and, turning to Drood, says, “Don’t you understand?”  This as the chapter ends.

During his conversation with Rosa, Drood thinks of the ring given to him by Mr. Grewgious.  Despite thinking of it, he fails to mention to Rosa any hint about his having her mother’s ring.  “It is certain, now, that I am to give it back to him; then why should I tell her of it?”

Just how important shall this ring be? Why is Jasper so keen on haunting the Cathedral crypts? Has a kiss sealed someone’s fate?

***

Stop by next week for the all important Chapter Fourteen.


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