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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter IX - BIRDS IN THE BUSH
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The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter IX - BIRDS IN THE BUSH Post by :bretf68 Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :June 2011 Read :1032

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The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter IX - BIRDS IN THE BUSH

CHAPTER IX - BIRDS IN THE BUSH


Rosa, having no relation that she knew of in the world, had, from
the seventh year of her age, known no home but the Nuns' House, and
no mother but Miss Twinkleton. Her remembrance of her own mother
was of a pretty little creature like herself (not much older than
herself it seemed to her), who had been brought home in her
father's arms, drowned. The fatal accident had happened at a party
of pleasure. Every fold and colour in the pretty summer dress, and
even the long wet hair, with scattered petals of ruined flowers
still clinging to it, as the dead young figure, in its sad, sad
beauty lay upon the bed, were fixed indelibly in Rosa's
recollection. So were the wild despair and the subsequent bowed-
down grief of her poor young father, who died broken-hearted on the
first anniversary of that hard day.

The betrothal of Rosa grew out of the soothing of his year of
mental distress by his fast friend and old college companion,
Drood: who likewise had been left a widower in his youth. But he,
too, went the silent road into which all earthly pilgrimages merge,
some sooner, and some later; and thus the young couple had come to
be as they were.

The atmosphere of pity surrounding the little orphan girl when she
first came to Cloisterham, had never cleared away. It had taken
brighter hues as she grew older, happier, prettier; now it had been
golden, now roseate, and now azure; but it had always adorned her
with some soft light of its own. The general desire to console and
caress her, had caused her to be treated in the beginning as a
child much younger than her years; the same desire had caused her
to be still petted when she was a child no longer. Who should be
her favourite, who should anticipate this or that small present, or
do her this or that small service; who should take her home for the
holidays; who should write to her the oftenest when they were
separated, and whom she would most rejoice to see again when they
were reunited; even these gentle rivalries were not without their
slight dashes of bitterness in the Nuns' House. Well for the poor
Nuns in their day, if they hid no harder strife under their veils
and rosaries!

Thus Rosa had grown to be an amiable, giddy, wilful, winning little
creature; spoilt, in the sense of counting upon kindness from all
around her; but not in the sense of repaying it with indifference.
Possessing an exhaustless well of affection in her nature, its
sparkling waters had freshened and brightened the Nuns' House for
years, and yet its depths had never yet been moved: what might
betide when that came to pass; what developing changes might fall
upon the heedless head, and light heart, then; remained to be seen.

By what means the news that there had been a quarrel between the
two young men overnight, involving even some kind of onslaught by
Mr. Neville upon Edwin Drood, got into Miss Twinkleton's
establishment before breakfast, it is impossible to say. Whether
it was brought in by the birds of the air, or came blowing in with
the very air itself, when the casement windows were set open;
whether the baker brought it kneaded into the bread, or the milkman
delivered it as part of the adulteration of his milk; or the
housemaids, beating the dust out of their mats against the
gateposts, received it in exchange deposited on the mats by the
town atmosphere; certain it is that the news permeated every gable
of the old building before Miss Twinkleton was down, and that Miss
Twinkleton herself received it through Mrs. Tisher, while yet in
the act of dressing; or (as she might have expressed the phrase to
a parent or guardian of a mythological turn) of sacrificing to the
Graces.

Miss Landless's brother had thrown a bottle at Mr. Edwin Drood.

Miss Landless's brother had thrown a knife at Mr. Edwin Drood.

A knife became suggestive of a fork; and Miss Landless's brother
had thrown a fork at Mr. Edwin Drood.

As in the governing precedence of Peter Piper, alleged to have
picked the peck of pickled pepper, it was held physically desirable
to have evidence of the existence of the peck of pickled pepper
which Peter Piper was alleged to have picked; so, in this case, it
was held psychologically important to know why Miss Landless's
brother threw a bottle, knife, or fork-or bottle, knife, AND fork--
for the cook had been given to understand it was all three--at Mr.
Edwin Drood?

Well, then. Miss Landless's brother had said he admired Miss Bud.
Mr. Edwin Drood had said to Miss Landless's brother that he had no
business to admire Miss Bud. Miss Landless's brother had then
'up'd' (this was the cook's exact information) with the bottle,
knife, fork, and decanter (the decanter now coolly flying at
everybody's head, without the least introduction), and thrown them
all at Mr. Edwin Drood.

Poor little Rosa put a forefinger into each of her ears when these
rumours began to circulate, and retired into a corner, beseeching
not to be told any more; but Miss Landless, begging permission of
Miss Twinkleton to go and speak with her brother, and pretty
plainly showing that she would take it if it were not given, struck
out the more definite course of going to Mr. Crisparkle's for
accurate intelligence.

When she came back (being first closeted with Miss Twinkleton, in
order that anything objectionable in her tidings might be retained
by that discreet filter), she imparted to Rosa only, what had taken
place; dwelling with a flushed cheek on the provocation her brother
had received, but almost limiting it to that last gross affront as
crowning 'some other words between them,' and, out of consideration
for her new friend, passing lightly over the fact that the other
words had originated in her lover's taking things in general so
very easily. To Rosa direct, she brought a petition from her
brother that she would forgive him; and, having delivered it with
sisterly earnestness, made an end of the subject.

It was reserved for Miss Twinkleton to tone down the public mind of
the Nuns' House. That lady, therefore, entering in a stately
manner what plebeians might have called the school-room, but what,
in the patrician language of the head of the Nuns' House, was
euphuistically, not to say round-aboutedly, denominated 'the
apartment allotted to study,' and saying with a forensic air,
'Ladies!' all rose. Mrs. Tisher at the same time grouped herself
behind her chief, as representing Queen Elizabeth's first
historical female friend at Tilbury fort. Miss Twinkleton then
proceeded to remark that Rumour, Ladies, had been represented by
the bard of Avon--needless were it to mention the immortal
SHAKESPEARE, also called the Swan of his native river, not
improbably with some reference to the ancient superstition that
that bird of graceful plumage (Miss Jennings will please stand
upright) sang sweetly on the approach of death, for which we have
no ornithological authority,--Rumour, Ladies, had been represented
by that bard--hem! -


'who drew
The celebrated Jew,'


as painted full of tongues. Rumour in Cloisterham (Miss Ferdinand
will honour me with her attention) was no exception to the great
limner's portrait of Rumour elsewhere. A slight fracas between two
young gentlemen occurring last night within a hundred miles of
these peaceful walls (Miss Ferdinand, being apparently
incorrigible, will have the kindness to write out this evening, in
the original language, the first four fables of our vivacious
neighbour, Monsieur La Fontaine) had been very grossly exaggerated
by Rumour's voice. In the first alarm and anxiety arising from our
sympathy with a sweet young friend, not wholly to be dissociated
from one of the gladiators in the bloodless arena in question (the
impropriety of Miss Reynolds's appearing to stab herself in the
hand with a pin, is far too obvious, and too glaringly unladylike,
to be pointed out), we descended from our maiden elevation to
discuss this uncongenial and this unfit theme. Responsible
inquiries having assured us that it was but one of those 'airy
nothings' pointed at by the Poet (whose name and date of birth Miss
Giggles will supply within half an hour), we would now discard the
subject, and concentrate our minds upon the grateful labours of the
day.

But the subject so survived all day, nevertheless, that Miss
Ferdinand got into new trouble by surreptitiously clapping on a
paper moustache at dinner-time, and going through the motions of
aiming a water-bottle at Miss Giggles, who drew a table-spoon in
defence.

Now, Rosa thought of this unlucky quarrel a great deal, and thought
of it with an uncomfortable feeling that she was involved in it, as
cause, or consequence, or what not, through being in a false
position altogether as to her marriage engagement. Never free from
such uneasiness when she was with her affianced husband, it was not
likely that she would be free from it when they were apart. To-
day, too, she was cast in upon herself, and deprived of the relief
of talking freely with her new friend, because the quarrel had been
with Helena's brother, and Helena undisguisedly avoided the subject
as a delicate and difficult one to herself. At this critical time,
of all times, Rosa's guardian was announced as having come to see
her.

Mr. Grewgious had been well selected for his trust, as a man of
incorruptible integrity, but certainly for no other appropriate
quality discernible on the surface. He was an arid, sandy man,
who, if he had been put into a grinding-mill, looked as if he would
have ground immediately into high-dried snuff. He had a scanty
flat crop of hair, in colour and consistency like some very mangy
yellow fur tippet; it was so unlike hair, that it must have been a
wig, but for the stupendous improbability of anybody's voluntarily
sporting such a head. The little play of feature that his face
presented, was cut deep into it, in a few hard curves that made it
more like work; and he had certain notches in his forehead, which
looked as though Nature had been about to touch them into
sensibility or refinement, when she had impatiently thrown away the
chisel, and said: 'I really cannot be worried to finish off this
man; let him go as he is.'

With too great length of throat at his upper end, and too much
ankle-bone and heel at his lower; with an awkward and hesitating
manner; with a shambling walk; and with what is called a near
sight--which perhaps prevented his observing how much white cotton
stocking he displayed to the public eye, in contrast with his black
suit--Mr. Grewgious still had some strange capacity in him of
making on the whole an agreeable impression.

Mr. Grewgious was discovered by his ward, much discomfited by being
in Miss Twinkleton's company in Miss Twinkleton's own sacred room.
Dim forebodings of being examined in something, and not coming well
out of it, seemed to oppress the poor gentleman when found in these
circumstances.

'My dear, how do you do? I am glad to see you. My dear, how much
improved you are. Permit me to hand you a chair, my dear.'

Miss Twinkleton rose at her little writing-table, saying, with
general sweetness, as to the polite Universe: 'Will you permit me
to retire?'

'By no means, madam, on my account. I beg that you will not move.'

'I must entreat permission to MOVE,' returned Miss Twinkleton,
repeating the word with a charming grace; 'but I will not withdraw,
since you are so obliging. If I wheel my desk to this corner
window, shall I be in the way?'

'Madam! In the way!'

'You are very kind.--Rosa, my dear, you will be under no restraint,
I am sure.'

Here Mr. Grewgious, left by the fire with Rosa, said again: 'My
dear, how do you do? I am glad to see you, my dear.' And having
waited for her to sit down, sat down himself.

'My visits,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'are, like those of the angels--
not that I compare myself to an angel.'

'No, sir,' said Rosa.

'Not by any means,' assented Mr. Grewgious. 'I merely refer to my
visits, which are few and far between. The angels are, we know
very well, up-stairs.'

Miss Twinkleton looked round with a kind of stiff stare.

'I refer, my dear,' said Mr. Grewgious, laying his hand on Rosa's,
as the possibility thrilled through his frame of his otherwise
seeming to take the awful liberty of calling Miss Twinkleton my
dear; 'I refer to the other young ladies.'

Miss Twinkleton resumed her writing.

Mr. Grewgious, with a sense of not having managed his opening point
quite as neatly as he might have desired, smoothed his head from
back to front as if he had just dived, and were pressing the water
out--this smoothing action, however superfluous, was habitual with
him--and took a pocket-book from his coat-pocket, and a stump of
black-lead pencil from his waistcoat-pocket.

'I made,' he said, turning the leaves: 'I made a guiding
memorandum or so--as I usually do, for I have no conversational
powers whatever--to which I will, with your permission, my dear,
refer. "Well and happy." Truly. You are well and happy, my dear?
You look so.'

'Yes, indeed, sir,' answered Rosa.

'For which,' said Mr. Grewgious, with a bend of his head towards
the corner window, 'our warmest acknowledgments are due, and I am
sure are rendered, to the maternal kindness and the constant care
and consideration of the lady whom I have now the honour to see
before me.'

This point, again, made but a lame departure from Mr. Grewgious,
and never got to its destination; for, Miss Twinkleton, feeling
that the courtesies required her to be by this time quite outside
the conversation, was biting the end of her pen, and looking
upward, as waiting for the descent of an idea from any member of
the Celestial Nine who might have one to spare.

Mr. Grewgious smoothed his smooth head again, and then made another
reference to his pocket-book; lining out 'well and happy,' as
disposed of.

'"Pounds, shillings, and pence," is my next note. A dry subject
for a young lady, but an important subject too. Life is pounds,
shillings, and pence. Death is--' A sudden recollection of the
death of her two parents seemed to stop him, and he said in a
softer tone, and evidently inserting the negative as an after-
thought: 'Death is NOT pounds, shillings, and pence.'

His voice was as hard and dry as himself, and Fancy might have
ground it straight, like himself, into high-dried snuff. And yet,
through the very limited means of expression that he possessed, he
seemed to express kindness. If Nature had but finished him off,
kindness might have been recognisable in his face at this moment.
But if the notches in his forehead wouldn't fuse together, and if
his face would work and couldn't play, what could he do, poor man!

'"Pounds, shillings, and pence." You find your allowance always
sufficient for your wants, my dear?'

Rosa wanted for nothing, and therefore it was ample.

'And you are not in debt?'

Rosa laughed at the idea of being in debt. It seemed, to her
inexperience, a comical vagary of the imagination. Mr. Grewgious
stretched his near sight to be sure that this was her view of the
case. 'Ah!' he said, as comment, with a furtive glance towards
Miss Twinkleton, and lining out pounds, shillings, and pence: 'I
spoke of having got among the angels! So I did!'

Rosa felt what his next memorandum would prove to be, and was
blushing and folding a crease in her dress with one embarrassed
hand, long before he found it.

'"Marriage." Hem!' Mr. Grewgious carried his smoothing hand down
over his eyes and nose, and even chin, before drawing his chair a
little nearer, and speaking a little more confidentially: 'I now
touch, my dear, upon the point that is the direct cause of my
troubling you with the present visit. Othenwise, being a
particularly Angular man, I should not have intruded here. I am
the last man to intrude into a sphere for which I am so entirely
unfitted. I feel, on these premises, as if I was a bear--with the
cramp--in a youthful Cotillon.'

His ungainliness gave him enough of the air of his simile to set
Rosa off laughing heartily.

'It strikes you in the same light,' said Mr. Grewgious, with
perfect calmness. 'Just so. To return to my memorandum. Mr.
Edwin has been to and fro here, as was arranged. You have
mentioned that, in your quarterly letters to me. And you like him,
and he likes you.'

'I LIKE him very much, sir,' rejoined Rosa.

'So I said, my dear,' returned her guardian, for whose ear the
timid emphasis was much too fine. 'Good. And you correspond.'

'We write to one another,' said Rosa, pouting, as she recalled
their epistolary differences.

'Such is the meaning that I attach to the word "correspond" in this
application, my dear,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'Good. All goes well,
time works on, and at this next Christmas-time it will become
necessary, as a matter of form, to give the exemplary lady in the
corner window, to whom we are so much indebted, business notice of
your departure in the ensuing half-year. Your relations with her
are far more than business relations, no doubt; but a residue of
business remains in them, and business is business ever. I am a
particularly Angular man,' proceeded Mr. Grewgious, as if it
suddenly occurred to him to mention it, 'and I am not used to give
anything away. If, for these two reasons, some competent Proxy
would give YOU away, I should take it very kindly.'

Rosa intimated, with her eyes on the ground, that she thought a
substitute might be found, if required.

'Surely, surely,' said Mr. Grewgious. 'For instance, the gentleman
who teaches Dancing here--he would know how to do it with graceful
propriety. He would advance and retire in a manner satisfactory to
the feelings of the officiating clergyman, and of yourself, and the
bridegroom, and all parties concerned. I am--I am a particularly
Angular man,' said Mr. Grewgious, as if he had made up his mind to
screw it out at last: 'and should only blunder.'

Rosa sat still and silent. Perhaps her mind had not got quite so
far as the ceremony yet, but was lagging on the way there.

'Memorandum, "Will." Now, my dear,' said Mr. Grewgious, referring
to his notes, disposing of 'Marriage' with his pencil, and taking a
paper from his pocket; 'although. I have before possessed you with
the contents of your father's will, I think it right at this time
to leave a certified copy of it in your hands. And although Mr.
Edwin is also aware of its contents, I think it right at this time
likewise to place a certified copy of it in Mr. Jasper's hand--'

'Not in his own!' asked Rosa, looking up quickly. 'Cannot the copy
go to Eddy himself?'

'Why, yes, my dear, if you particularly wish it; but I spoke of Mr.
Jasper as being his trustee.'

'I do particularly wish it, if you please,' said Rosa, hurriedly
and earnestly; 'I don't like Mr. Jasper to come between us, in any
way.'

'It is natural, I suppose,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'that your young
husband should be all in all. Yes. You observe that I say, I
suppose. The fact is, I am a particularly Unnatural man, and I
don't know from my own knowledge.'

Rosa looked at him with some wonder.

'I mean,' he explained, 'that young ways were never my ways. I was
the only offspring of parents far advanced in life, and I half
believe I was born advanced in life myself. No personality is
intended towards the name you will so soon change, when I remark
that while the general growth of people seem to have come into
existence, buds, I seem to have come into existence a chip. I was
a chip--and a very dry one--when I first became aware of myself.
Respecting the other certified copy, your wish shall be complied
with. Respecting your inheritance, I think you know all. It is an
annuity of two hundred and fifty pounds. The savings upon that
annuity, and some other items to your credit, all duly carried to
account, with vouchers, will place you in possession of a lump-sum
of money, rather exceeding Seventeen Hundred Pounds. I am
empowered to advance the cost of your preparations for your
marriage out of that fund. All is told.'

'Will you please tell me,' said Rosa, taking the paper with a
prettily knitted brow, but not opening it: 'whether I am right in
what I am going to say? I can understand what you tell me, so very
much better than what I read in law-writings. My poor papa and
Eddy's father made their agreement together, as very dear and firm
and fast friends, in order that we, too, might be very dear and
firm and fast friends after them?'

'Just so.'

'For the lasting good of both of us, and the lasting happiness of
both of us?'

'Just so.'

'That we might be to one another even much more than they had been
to one another?'

'Just so.'

'It was not bound upon Eddy, and it was not bound upon me, by any
forfeit, in case--'

'Don't be agitated, my dear. In the case that it brings tears into
your affectionate eyes even to picture to yourself--in the case of
your not marrying one another--no, no forfeiture on either side.
You would then have been my ward until you were of age. No worse
would have befallen you. Bad enough perhaps!'

'And Eddy?'

'He would have come into his partnership derived from his father,
and into its arrears to his credit (if any), on attaining his
majority, just as now.'

Rosa, with her perplexed face and knitted brow, bit the corner of
her attested copy, as she sat with her head on one side, looking
abstractedly on the floor, and smoothing it with her foot.

'In short,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'this betrothal is a wish, a
sentiment, a friendly project, tenderly expressed on both sides.
That it was strongly felt, and that there was a lively hope that it
would prosper, there can be no doubt. When you were both children,
you began to be accustomed to it, and it HAS prospered. But
circumstances alter cases; and I made this visit to-day, partly,
indeed principally, to discharge myself of the duty of telling you,
my dear, that two young people can only be betrothed in marriage
(except as a matter of convenience, and therefore mockery and
misery) of their own free will, their own attachment, and their own
assurance (it may or it may not prove a mistaken one, but we must
take our chance of that), that they are suited to each other, and
will make each other happy. Is it to be supposed, for example,
that if either of your fathers were living now, and had any
mistrust on that subject, his mind would not be changed by the
change of circumstances involved in the change of your years?
Untenable, unreasonable, inconclusive, and preposterous!'

Mr. Grewgious said all this, as if he were reading it aloud; or,
still more, as if he were repeating a lesson. So expressionless of
any approach to spontaneity were his face and manner.

'I have now, my dear,' he added, blurring out 'Will' with his
pencil, 'discharged myself of what is doubtless a formal duty in
this case, but still a duty in such a case. Memorandum, "Wishes."
My dear, is there any wish of yours that I can further?'

Rosa shook her head, with an almost plaintive air of hesitation in
want of help.

'Is there any instruction that I can take from you with reference
to your affairs?'

'I--I should like to settle them with Eddy first, if you please,'
said Rosa, plaiting the crease in her dress.

'Surely, surely,' returned Mr. Grewgious. 'You two should be of
one mind in all things. Is the young gentleman expected shortly?'

'He has gone away only this morning. He will be back at
Christmas.'

'Nothing could happen better. You will, on his return at
Christmas, arrange all matters of detail with him; you will then
communicate with me; and I will discharge myself (as a mere
business acquaintance) of my business responsibilities towards the
accomplished lady in the corner window. They will accrue at that
season.' Blurring pencil once again. 'Memorandum, "Leave." Yes.
I will now, my dear, take my leave.'

'Could I,' said Rosa, rising, as he jerked out of his chair in his
ungainly way: 'could I ask you, most kindly to come to me at
Christmas, if I had anything particular to say to you?'

'Why, certainly, certainly,' he rejoined; apparently--if such a
word can be used of one who had no apparent lights or shadows about
him--complimented by the question. 'As a particularly Angular man,
I do not fit smoothly into the social circle, and consequently I
have no other engagement at Christmas-time than to partake, on the
twenty-fifth, of a boiled turkey and celery sauce with a--with a
particularly Angular clerk I have the good fortune to possess,
whose father, being a Norfolk farmer, sends him up (the turkey up),
as a present to me, from the neighbourhood of Norwich. I should be
quite proud of your wishing to see me, my dear. As a professional
Receiver of rents, so very few people DO wish to see me, that the
novelty would be bracing.'

For his ready acquiescence, the grateful Rosa put her hands upon
his shoulders, stood on tiptoe, and instantly kissed him.

'Lord bless me!' cried Mr. Grewgious. 'Thank you, my dear! The
honour is almost equal to the pleasure. Miss Twinkleton, madam, I
have had a most satisfactory conversation with my ward, and I will
now release you from the incumbrance of my presence.'

'Nay, sir,' rejoined Miss Twinkleton, rising with a gracious
condescension: 'say not incumbrance. Not so, by any means. I
cannot permit you to say so.'

'Thank you, madam. I have read in the newspapers,' said Mr.
Grewgious, stammering a little, 'that when a distinguished visitor
(not that I am one: far from it) goes to a school (not that this
is one: far from it), he asks for a holiday, or some sort of
grace. It being now the afternoon in the--College--of which you
are the eminent head, the young ladies might gain nothing, except
in name, by having the rest of the day allowed them. But if there
is any young lady at all under a cloud, might I solicit--'

'Ah, Mr. Grewgious, Mr. Grewgious!' cried Miss Twinkleton, with a
chastely-rallying forefinger. 'O you gentlemen, you gentlemen!
Fie for shame, that you are so hard upon us poor maligned
disciplinarians of our sex, for your sakes! But as Miss Ferdinand
is at present weighed down by an incubus'--Miss Twinkleton might
have said a pen-and-ink-ubus of writing out Monsieur La Fontaine--
'go to her, Rosa my dear, and tell her the penalty is remitted, in
deference to the intercession of your guardian, Mr. Grewgious.'

Miss Twinkleton here achieved a curtsey, suggestive of marvels
happening to her respected legs, and which she came out of nobly,
three yards behind her starting-point.

As he held it incumbent upon him to call on Mr. Jasper before
leaving Cloisterham, Mr. Grewgious went to the gatehouse, and
climbed its postern stair. But Mr. Jasper's door being closed, and
presenting on a slip of paper the word 'Cathedral,' the fact of its
being service-time was borne into the mind of Mr. Grewgious. So he
descended the stair again, and, crossing the Close, paused at the
great western folding-door of the Cathedral, which stood open on
the fine and bright, though short-lived, afternoon, for the airing
of the place.

'Dear me,' said Mr. Grewgious, peeping in, 'it's like looking down
the throat of Old Time.'

Old Time heaved a mouldy sigh from tomb and arch and vault; and
gloomy shadows began to deepen in corners; and damps began to rise
from green patches of stone; and jewels, cast upon the pavement of
the nave from stained glass by the declining sun, began to perish.
Within the grill-gate of the chancel, up the steps surmounted
loomingly by the fast-darkening organ, white robes could be dimly
seen, and one feeble voice, rising and falling in a cracked,
monotonous mutter, could at intervals be faintly heard. In the
free outer air, the river, the green pastures, and the brown arable
lands, the teeming hills and dales, were reddened by the sunset:
while the distant little windows in windmills and farm homesteads,
shone, patches of bright beaten gold. In the Cathedral, all became
gray, murky, and sepulchral, and the cracked monotonous mutter went
on like a dying voice, until the organ and the choir burst forth,
and drowned it in a sea of music. Then, the sea fell, and the
dying voice made another feeble effort, and then the sea rose high,
and beat its life out, and lashed the roof, and surged among the
arches, and pierced the heights of the great tower; and then the
sea was dry, and all was still.

Mr. Grewgious had by that time walked to the chancel-steps, where
he met the living waters coming out.

'Nothing is the matter?' Thus Jasper accosted him, rather quickly.
'You have not been sent for?'

'Not at all, not at all. I came down of my own accord. I have
been to my pretty ward's, and am now homeward bound again.'

'You found her thriving?'

'Blooming indeed. Most blooming. I merely came to tell her,
seriously, what a betrothal by deceased parents is.'

'And what is it--according to your judgment?'

Mr. Grewgious noticed the whiteness of the lips that asked the
question, and put it down to the chilling account of the Cathedral.

'I merely came to tell her that it could not be considered binding,
against any such reason for its dissolution as a want of affection,
or want of disposition to carry it into effect, on the side of
either party.'

'May I ask, had you any especial reason for telling her that?'

Mr. Grewgious answered somewhat sharply: 'The especial reason of
doing my duty, sir. Simply that.' Then he added: 'Come, Mr.
Jasper; I know your affection for your nephew, and that you are
quick to feel on his behalf. I assure you that this implies not
the least doubt of, or disrespect to, your nephew.'

'You could not,' returned Jasper, with a friendly pressure of his
arm, as they walked on side by side, 'speak more handsomely.'

Mr. Grewgious pulled off his hat to smooth his head, and, having
smoothed it, nodded it contentedly, and put his hat on again.

'I will wager,' said Jasper, smiling--his lips were still so white
that he was conscious of it, and bit and moistened them while
speaking: 'I will wager that she hinted no wish to be released
from Ned.'

'And you will win your wager, if you do,' retorted Mr. Grewgious.
'We should allow some margin for little maidenly delicacies in a
young motherless creature, under such circumstances, I suppose; it
is not in my line; what do you think?'

'There can be no doubt of it.'

'I am glad you say so. Because,' proceeded Mr. Grewgious, who had
all this time very knowingly felt his way round to action on his
remembrance of what she had said of Jasper himself: 'because she
seems to have some little delicate instinct that all preliminary
arrangements had best be made between Mr. Edwin Drood and herself,
don't you see? She don't want us, don't you know?'

Jasper touched himself on the breast, and said, somewhat
indistinctly: 'You mean me.'

Mr. Grewgious touched himself on the breast, and said: 'I mean us.
Therefore, let them have their little discussions and councils
together, when Mr. Edwin Drood comes back here at Christmas; and
then you and I will step in, and put the final touches to the
business.'

'So, you settled with her that you would come back at Christmas?'
observed Jasper. 'I see! Mr. Grewgious, as you quite fairly said
just now, there is such an exceptional attachment between my nephew
and me, that I am more sensitive for the dear, fortunate, happy,
happy fellow than for myself. But it is only right that the young
lady should be considered, as you have pointed out, and that I
should accept my cue from you. I accept it. I understand that at
Christmas they will complete their preparations for May, and that
their marriage will be put in final train by themselves, and that
nothing will remain for us but to put ourselves in train also, and
have everything ready for our formal release from our trusts, on
Edwin's birthday.'

'That is my understanding,' assented Mr. Grewgious, as they shook
hands to part. 'God bless them both!'

'God save them both!' cried Jasper.

'I said, bless them,' remarked the former, looking back over his
shoulder.

'I said, save them,' returned the latter. 'Is there any
difference?'

Content of CHAPTER IX - BIRDS IN THE BUSH (Charles Dickens' novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood)

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