Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXII - A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXII - A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON Post by :Paddy_Kelly Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :June 2011 Read :3492

Click below to download : The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXII - A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON (Format : PDF)

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXII - A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON

CHAPTER XXII - A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON


Mr. Tartar's chambers were the neatest, the cleanest, and the best-
ordered chambers ever seen under the sun, moon, and stars. The
floors were scrubbed to that extent, that you might have supposed
the London blacks emancipated for ever, and gone out of the land
for good. Every inch of brass-work in Mr. Tartar's possession was
polished and burnished, till it shone like a brazen mirror. No
speck, nor spot, nor spatter soiled the purity of any of Mr.
Tartar's household gods, large, small, or middle-sized. His
sitting-room was like the admiral's cabin, his bath-room was like a
dairy, his sleeping-chamber, fitted all about with lockers and
drawers, was like a seedsman's shop; and his nicely-balanced cot
just stirred in the midst, as if it breathed. Everything belonging
to Mr. Tartar had quarters of its own assigned to it: his maps and
charts had their quarters; his books had theirs; his brushes had
theirs; his boots had theirs; his clothes had theirs; his case-
bottles had theirs; his telescopes and other instruments had
theirs. Everything was readily accessible. Shelf, bracket,
locker, hook, and drawer were equally within reach, and were
equally contrived with a view to avoiding waste of room, and
providing some snug inches of stowage for something that would have
exactly fitted nowhere else. His gleaming little service of plate
was so arranged upon his sideboard as that a slack salt-spoon would
have instantly betrayed itself; his toilet implements were so
arranged upon his dressing-table as that a toothpick of slovenly
deportment could have been reported at a glance. So with the
curiosities he had brought home from various voyages. Stuffed,
dried, repolished, or otherwise preserved, according to their kind;
birds, fishes, reptiles, arms, articles of dress, shells, seaweeds,
grasses, or memorials of coral reef; each was displayed in its
especial place, and each could have been displayed in no better
place. Paint and varnish seemed to be kept somewhere out of sight,
in constant readiness to obliterate stray finger-marks wherever any
might become perceptible in Mr. Tartar's chambers. No man-of-war
was ever kept more spick and span from careless touch. On this
bright summer day, a neat awning was rigged over Mr. Tartar's
flower-garden as only a sailor can rig it, and there was a sea-
going air upon the whole effect, so delightfully complete, that the
flower-garden might have appertained to stern-windows afloat, and
the whole concern might have bowled away gallantly with all on
board, if Mr. Tartar had only clapped to his lips the speaking-
trumpet that was slung in a corner, and given hoarse orders to
heave the anchor up, look alive there, men, and get all sail upon
her!

Mr. Tartar doing the honours of this gallant craft was of a piece
with the rest. When a man rides an amiable hobby that shies at
nothing and kicks nobody, it is only agreeable to find him riding
it with a humorous sense of the droll side of the creature. When
the man is a cordial and an earnest man by nature, and withal is
perfectly fresh and genuine, it may be doubted whether he is ever
seen to greater advantage than at such a time. So Rosa would have
naturally thought (even if she hadn't been conducted over the ship
with all the homage due to the First Lady of the Admiralty, or
First Fairy of the Sea), that it was charming to see and hear Mr.
Tartar half laughing at, and half rejoicing in, his various
contrivances. So Rosa would have naturally thought, anyhow, that
the sunburnt sailor showed to great advantage when, the inspection
finished, he delicately withdrew out of his admiral's cabin,
beseeching her to consider herself its Queen, and waving her free
of his flower-garden with the hand that had had Mr. Crisparkle's
life in it.

'Helena! Helena Landless! Are you there?'

'Who speaks to me? Not Rosa?' Then a second handsome face
appearing.

'Yes, my darling!'

'Why, how did you come here, dearest?'

'I--I don't quite know,' said Rosa with a blush; 'unless I am
dreaming!'

Why with a blush? For their two faces were alone with the other
flowers. Are blushes among the fruits of the country of the magic
bean-stalk?

'_I am not dreaming,' said Helena, smiling. 'I should take more
for granted if I were. How do we come together--or so near
together--so very unexpectedly?'

Unexpectedly indeed, among the dingy gables and chimney-pots of P.
J. T.'s connection, and the flowers that had sprung from the salt
sea. But Rosa, waking, told in a hurry how they came to be
together, and all the why and wherefore of that matter.

'And Mr. Crisparkle is here,' said Rosa, in rapid conclusion; 'and,
could you believe it? long ago he saved his life!'

'I could believe any such thing of Mr. Crisparkle,' returned
Helena, with a mantling face.

(More blushes in the bean-stalk country!)

'Yes, but it wasn't Crisparkle,' said Rosa, quickly putting in the
correction.

'I don't understand, love.'

'It was very nice of Mr. Crisparkle to be saved,' said Rosa, 'and
he couldn't have shown his high opinion of Mr. Tartar more
expressively. But it was Mr. Tartar who saved him.'

Helena's dark eyes looked very earnestly at the bright face among
the leaves, and she asked, in a slower and more thoughtful tone:

'Is Mr. Tartar with you now, dear?'

'No; because he has given up his rooms to me--to us, I mean. It is
such a beautiful place!'

'Is it?'

'It is like the inside of the most exquisite ship that ever sailed.
It is like--it is like--'

'Like a dream?' suggested Helena.

Rosa answered with a little nod, and smelled the flowers.

Helena resumed, after a short pause of silence, during which she
seemed (or it was Rosa's fancy) to compassionate somebody: 'My
poor Neville is reading in his own room, the sun being so very
bright on this side just now. I think he had better not know that
you are so near.'

'O, I think so too!' cried Rosa very readily.

'I suppose,' pursued Helena, doubtfully, 'that he must know by-and-
by all you have told me; but I am not sure. Ask Mr. Crisparkle's
advice, my darling. Ask him whether I may tell Neville as much or
as little of what you have told me as I think best.'

Rosa subsided into her state-cabin, and propounded the question.
The Minor Canon was for the free exercise of Helena's judgment.

'I thank him very much,' said Helena, when Rosa emerged again with
her report. 'Ask him whether it would be best to wait until any
more maligning and pursuing of Neville on the part of this wretch
shall disclose itself, or to try to anticipate it: I mean, so far
as to find out whether any such goes on darkly about us?'

The Minor Canon found this point so difficult to give a confident
opinion on, that, after two or three attempts and failures, he
suggested a reference to Mr. Grewgious. Helena acquiescing, he
betook himself (with a most unsuccessful assumption of lounging
indifference) across the quadrangle to P. J. T.'s, and stated it.
Mr. Grewgious held decidedly to the general principle, that if you
could steal a march upon a brigand or a wild beast, you had better
do it; and he also held decidedly to the special case, that John
Jasper was a brigand and a wild beast in combination.

Thus advised, Mr. Crisparkle came back again and reported to Rosa,
who in her turn reported to Helena. She now steadily pursuing her
train of thought at her window, considered thereupon.

'We may count on Mr. Tartar's readiness to help us, Rosa?' she
inquired.

O yes! Rosa shyly thought so. O yes, Rosa shyly believed she
could almost answer for it. But should she ask Mr. Crisparkle? 'I
think your authority on the point as good as his, my dear,' said
Helena, sedately, 'and you needn't disappear again for that.' Odd
of Helena!

'You see, Neville,' Helena pursued after more reflection, 'knows no
one else here: he has not so much as exchanged a word with any one
else here. If Mr. Tartar would call to see him openly and often;
if he would spare a minute for the purpose, frequently; if he would
even do so, almost daily; something might come of it.'

'Something might come of it, dear?' repeated Rosa, surveying her
friend's beauty with a highly perplexed face. 'Something might?'

'If Neville's movements are really watched, and if the purpose
really is to isolate him from all friends and acquaintance and wear
his daily life out grain by grain (which would seem to be the
threat to you), does it not appear likely,' said Helena, 'that his
enemy would in some way communicate with Mr. Tartar to warn him off
from Neville? In which case, we might not only know the fact, but
might know from Mr. Tartar what the terms of the communication
were.'

'I see!' cried Rosa. And immediately darted into her state-cabin
again.

Presently her pretty face reappeared, with a greatly heightened
colour, and she said that she had told Mr. Crisparkle, and that Mr.
Crisparkle had fetched in Mr. Tartar, and that Mr. Tartar--'who is
waiting now, in case you want him,' added Rosa, with a half look
back, and in not a little confusion between the inside of the
state-cabin and out--had declared his readiness to act as she had
suggested, and to enter on his task that very day.

'I thank him from my heart,' said Helena. 'Pray tell him so.'

Again not a little confused between the Flower-garden and the
Cabin, Rosa dipped in with her message, and dipped out again with
more assurances from Mr. Tartar, and stood wavering in a divided
state between Helena and him, which proved that confusion is not
always necessarily awkward, but may sometimes present a very
pleasant appearance.

'And now, darling,' said Helena, 'we will be mindful of the caution
that has restricted us to this interview for the present, and will
part. I hear Neville moving too. Are you going back?'

'To Miss Twinkleton's?' asked Rosa.

'Yes.'

'O, I could never go there any more. I couldn't indeed, after that
dreadful interview!' said Rosa.

'Then where ARE you going, pretty one?'

'Now I come to think of it, I don't know,' said Rosa. 'I have
settled nothing at all yet, but my guardian will take care of me.
Don't be uneasy, dear. I shall be sure to be somewhere.'

(It did seem likely.)

'And I shall hear of my Rosebud from Mr. Tartar?' inquired Helena.

'Yes, I suppose so; from--' Rosa looked back again in a flutter,
instead of supplying the name. 'But tell me one thing before we
part, dearest Helena. Tell me--that you are sure, sure, sure, I
couldn't help it.'

'Help it, love?'

'Help making him malicious and revengeful. I couldn't hold any
terms with him, could I?'

'You know how I love you, darling,' answered Helena, with
indignation; 'but I would sooner see you dead at his wicked feet.'

'That's a great comfort to me! And you will tell your poor brother
so, won't you? And you will give him my remembrance and my
sympathy? And you will ask him not to hate me?'

With a mournful shake of the head, as if that would be quite a
superfluous entreaty, Helena lovingly kissed her two hands to her
friend, and her friend's two hands were kissed to her; and then she
saw a third hand (a brown one) appear among the flowers and leaves,
and help her friend out of sight.

The refection that Mr. Tartar produced in the Admiral's Cabin by
merely touching the spring knob of a locker and the handle of a
drawer, was a dazzling enchanted repast. Wonderful macaroons,
glittering liqueurs, magically-preserved tropical spices, and
jellies of celestial tropical fruits, displayed themselves
profusely at an instant's notice. But Mr. Tartar could not make
time stand still; and time, with his hard-hearted fleetness, strode
on so fast, that Rosa was obliged to come down from the bean-stalk
country to earth and her guardian's chambers.

'And now, my dear,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'what is to be done next?
To put the same thought in another form; what is to be done with
you?'

Rosa could only look apologetically sensible of being very much in
her own way and in everybody else's. Some passing idea of living,
fireproof, up a good many stairs in Furnival's Inn for the rest of
her life, was the only thing in the nature of a plan that occurred
to her.

'It has come into my thoughts,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'that as the
respected lady, Miss Twinkleton, occasionally repairs to London in
the recess, with the view of extending her connection, and being
available for interviews with metropolitan parents, if any--
whether, until we have time in which to turn ourselves round, we
might invite Miss Twinkleton to come and stay with you for a
month?'

'Stay where, sir?'

'Whether,' explained Mr. Grewgious, 'we might take a furnished
lodging in town for a month, and invite Miss Twinkleton to assume
the charge of you in it for that period?'

'And afterwards?' hinted Rosa.

'And afterwards,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'we should be no worse off
than we are now.'

'I think that might smooth the way,' assented Rosa.

'Then let us,' said Mr. Grewgious, rising, 'go and look for a
furnished lodging. Nothing could be more acceptable to me than the
sweet presence of last evening, for all the remaining evenings of
my existence; but these are not fit surroundings for a young lady.
Let us set out in quest of adventures, and look for a furnished
lodging. In the meantime, Mr. Crisparkle here, about to return
home immediately, will no doubt kindly see Miss Twinkleton, and
invite that lady to co-operate in our plan.'

Mr. Crisparkle, willingly accepting the commission, took his
departure; Mr. Grewgious and his ward set forth on their
expedition.

As Mr. Grewgious's idea of looking at a furnished lodging was to
get on the opposite side of the street to a house with a suitable
bill in the window, and stare at it; and then work his way
tortuously to the back of the house, and stare at that; and then
not go in, but make similar trials of another house, with the same
result; their progress was but slow. At length he bethought
himself of a widowed cousin, divers times removed, of Mr.
Bazzard's, who had once solicited his influence in the lodger
world, and who lived in Southampton Street, Bloomsbury Square.
This lady's name, stated in uncompromising capitals of considerable
size on a brass door-plate, and yet not lucidly as to sex or
condition, was BILLICKIN.

Personal faintness, and an overpowering personal candour, were the
distinguishing features of Mrs. Billickin's organisation. She came
languishing out of her own exclusive back parlour, with the air of
having been expressly brought-to for the purpose, from an
accumulation of several swoons.

'I hope I see you well, sir,' said Mrs. Billickin, recognising her
visitor with a bend.

'Thank you, quite well. And you, ma'am?' returned Mr. Grewgious.

'I am as well,' said Mrs. Billickin, becoming aspirational with
excess of faintness, 'as I hever ham.'

'My ward and an elderly lady,' said Mr. Grewgious, 'wish to find a
genteel lodging for a month or so. Have you any apartments
available, ma'am?'

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'I will not deceive you;
far from it. I HAVE apartments available.'

This with the air of adding: 'Convey me to the stake, if you will;
but while I live, I will be candid.'

'And now, what apartments, ma'am?' asked Mr. Grewgious, cosily. To
tame a certain severity apparent on the part of Mrs. Billickin.

'There is this sitting-room--which, call it what you will, it is
the front parlour, Miss,' said Mrs. Billickin, impressing Rosa into
the conversation: 'the back parlour being what I cling to and
never part with; and there is two bedrooms at the top of the 'ouse
with gas laid on. I do not tell you that your bedroom floors is
firm, for firm they are not. The gas-fitter himself allowed, that
to make a firm job, he must go right under your jistes, and it were
not worth the outlay as a yearly tenant so to do. The piping is
carried above your jistes, and it is best that it should be made
known to you.'

Mr. Grewgious and Rosa exchanged looks of some dismay, though they
had not the least idea what latent horrors this carriage of the
piping might involve. Mrs. Billickin put her hand to her heart, as
having eased it of a load.

'Well! The roof is all right, no doubt,' said Mr. Grewgious,
plucking up a little.

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'if I was to tell you,
sir, that to have nothink above you is to have a floor above you, I
should put a deception upon you which I will not do. No, sir.
Your slates WILL rattle loose at that elewation in windy weather,
do your utmost, best or worst! I defy you, sir, be you what you
may, to keep your slates tight, try how you can.' Here Mrs.
Billickin, having been warm with Mr. Grewgious, cooled a little,
not to abuse the moral power she held over him. 'Consequent,'
proceeded Mrs. Billickin, more mildly, but still firmly in her
incorruptible candour: 'consequent it would be worse than of no
use for me to trapse and travel up to the top of the 'ouse with
you, and for you to say, "Mrs. Billickin, what stain do I notice in
the ceiling, for a stain I do consider it?" and for me to answer,
"I do not understand you, sir." No, sir, I will not be so
underhand. I DO understand you before you pint it out. It is the
wet, sir. It do come in, and it do not come in. You may lay dry
there half your lifetime; but the time will come, and it is best
that you should know it, when a dripping sop would be no name for
you.'

Mr. Grewgious looked much disgraced by being prefigured in this
pickle.

'Have you any other apartments, ma'am?' he asked.

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, with much solemnity, 'I
have. You ask me have I, and my open and my honest answer air, I
have. The first and second floors is wacant, and sweet rooms.'

'Come, come! There's nothing against THEM,' said Mr. Grewgious,
comforting himself.

'Mr. Grewgious,' replied Mrs. Billickin, 'pardon me, there is the
stairs. Unless your mind is prepared for the stairs, it will lead
to inevitable disappointment. You cannot, Miss,' said Mrs.
Billickin, addressing Rosa reproachfully, 'place a first floor, and
far less a second, on the level footing 'of a parlour. No, you
cannot do it, Miss, it is beyond your power, and wherefore try?'

Mrs. Billickin put it very feelingly, as if Rosa had shown a
headstrong determination to hold the untenable position.

'Can we see these rooms, ma'am?' inquired her guardian.

'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'you can. I will not
disguise it from you, sir; you can.'

Mrs. Billickin then sent into her back parlour for her shawl (it
being a state fiction, dating from immemorial antiquity, that she
could never go anywhere without being wrapped up), and having been
enrolled by her attendant, led the way. She made various genteel
pauses on the stairs for breath, and clutched at her heart in the
drawing-room as if it had very nearly got loose, and she had caught
it in the act of taking wing.

'And the second floor?' said Mr. Grewgious, on finding the first
satisfactory.

'Mr. Grewgious,' replied Mrs. Billickin, turning upon him with
ceremony, as if the time had now come when a distinct understanding
on a difficult point must be arrived at, and a solemn confidence
established, 'the second floor is over this.'

'Can we see that too, ma'am?'

'Yes, sir,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'it is open as the day.'

That also proving satisfactory, Mr. Grewgious retired into a window
with Rosa for a few words of consultation, and then asking for pen
and ink, sketched out a line or two of agreement. In the meantime
Mrs. Billickin took a seat, and delivered a kind of Index to, or
Abstract of, the general question.

'Five-and-forty shillings per week by the month certain at the time
of year,' said Mrs. Billickin, 'is only reasonable to both parties.
It is not Bond Street nor yet St. James's Palace; but it is not
pretended that it is. Neither is it attempted to be denied--for
why should it?--that the Arching leads to a mews. Mewses must
exist. Respecting attendance; two is kep', at liberal wages.
Words HAS arisen as to tradesmen, but dirty shoes on fresh hearth-
stoning was attributable, and no wish for a commission on your
orders. Coals is either BY the fire, or PER the scuttle.' She
emphasised the prepositions as marking a subtle but immense
difference. 'Dogs is not viewed with favour. Besides litter, they
gets stole, and sharing suspicions is apt to creep in, and
unpleasantness takes place.'

By this time Mr. Grewgious had his agreement-lines, and his
earnest-money, ready. 'I have signed it for the ladies, ma'am,' he
said, 'and you'll have the goodness to sign it for yourself,
Christian and Surname, there, if you please.'

'Mr. Grewgious,' said Mrs. Billickin in a new burst of candour,
'no, sir! You must excuse the Christian name.'

Mr. Grewgious stared at her.

'The door-plate is used as a protection,' said Mrs. Billickin, 'and
acts as such, and go from it I will not.'

Mr. Grewgious stared at Rosa.

'No, Mr. Grewgious, you must excuse me. So long as this 'ouse is
known indefinite as Billickin's, and so long as it is a doubt with
the riff-raff where Billickin may be hidin', near the street-door
or down the airy, and what his weight and size, so long I feel
safe. But commit myself to a solitary female statement, no, Miss!
Nor would you for a moment wish,' said Mrs. Billickin, with a
strong sense of injury, 'to take that advantage of your sex, if you
were not brought to it by inconsiderate example.'

Rosa reddening as if she had made some most disgraceful attempt to
overreach the good lady, besought Mr. Grewgious to rest content
with any signature. And accordingly, in a baronial way, the sign-
manual BILLICKIN got appended to the document.

Details were then settled for taking possession on the next day but
one, when Miss Twinkleton might be reasonably expected; and Rosa
went back to Furnival's Inn on her guardian's arm.

Behold Mr. Tartar walking up and down Furnival's Inn, checking
himself when he saw them coming, and advancing towards them!

'It occurred to me,' hinted Mr. Tartar, 'that we might go up the
river, the weather being so delicious and the tide serving. I have
a boat of my own at the Temple Stairs.'

'I have not been up the river for this many a day,' said Mr.
Grewgious, tempted.

'I was never up the river,' added Rosa.

Within half an hour they were setting this matter right by going up
the river. The tide was running with them, the afternoon was
charming. Mr. Tartar's boat was perfect. Mr. Tartar and Lobley
(Mr. Tartar's man) pulled a pair of oars. Mr. Tartar had a yacht,
it seemed, lying somewhere down by Greenhithe; and Mr. Tartar's man
had charge of this yacht, and was detached upon his present
service. He was a jolly-favoured man, with tawny hair and
whiskers, and a big red face. He was the dead image of the sun in
old woodcuts, his hair and whiskers answering for rays all around
him. Resplendent in the bow of the boat, he was a shining sight,
with a man-of-war's man's shirt on--or off, according to opinion--
and his arms and breast tattooed all sorts of patterns. Lobley
seemed to take it easily, and so did Mr. Tartar; yet their oars
bent as they pulled, and the boat bounded under them. Mr. Tartar
talked as if he were doing nothing, to Rosa who was really doing
nothing, and to Mr. Grewgious who was doing this much that he
steered all wrong; but what did that matter, when a turn of Mr.
Tartar's skilful wrist, or a mere grin of Mr. Lobley's over the
bow, put all to rights! The tide bore them on in the gayest and
most sparkling manner, until they stopped to dine in some ever-
lastingly-green garden, needing no matter-of-fact identification
here; and then the tide obligingly turned--being devoted to that
party alone for that day; and as they floated idly among some
osier-beds, Rosa tried what she could do in the rowing way, and
came off splendidly, being much assisted; and Mr. Grewgious tried
what he could do, and came off on his back, doubled up with an oar
under his chin, being not assisted at all. Then there was an
interval of rest under boughs (such rest!) what time Mr. Lobley
mopped, and, arranging cushions, stretchers, and the like, danced
the tight-rope the whole length of the boat like a man to whom
shoes were a superstition and stockings slavery; and then came the
sweet return among delicious odours of limes in bloom, and musical
ripplings; and, all too soon, the great black city cast its shadow
on the waters, and its dark bridges spanned them as death spans
life, and the everlastingly-green garden seemed to be left for
everlasting, unregainable and far away.

'Cannot people get through life without gritty stages, I wonder?'
Rosa thought next day, when the town was very gritty again, and
everything had a strange and an uncomfortable appearance of seeming
to wait for something that wouldn't come. NO. She began to think,
that, now the Cloisterham school-days had glided past and gone, the
gritty stages would begin to set in at intervals and make
themselves wearily known!

Yet what did Rosa expect? Did she expect Miss Twinkleton? Miss
Twinkleton duly came. Forth from her back parlour issued the
Billickin to receive Miss Twinkleton, and War was in the
Billickin's eye from that fell moment.

Miss Twinkleton brought a quantity of luggage with her, having all
Rosa's as well as her own. The Billickin took it ill that Miss
Twinkleton's mind, being sorely disturbed by this luggage, failed
to take in her personal identity with that clearness of perception
which was due to its demands. Stateliness mounted her gloomy
throne upon the Billickin's brow in consequence. And when Miss
Twinkleton, in agitation taking stock of her trunks and packages,
of which she had seventeen, particularly counted in the Billickin
herself as number eleven, the B. found it necessary to repudiate.

'Things cannot too soon be put upon the footing,' said she, with a
candour so demonstrative as to be almost obtrusive, 'that the
person of the 'ouse is not a box nor yet a bundle, nor a carpet-
bag. No, I am 'ily obleeged to you, Miss Twinkleton, nor yet a
beggar.'

This last disclaimer had reference to Miss Twinkleton's
distractedly pressing two-and-sixpence on her, instead of the
cabman.

Thus cast off, Miss Twinkleton wildly inquired, 'which gentleman'
was to be paid? There being two gentlemen in that position (Miss
Twinkleton having arrived with two cabs), each gentleman on being
paid held forth his two-and-sixpence on the flat of his open hand,
and, with a speechless stare and a dropped jaw, displayed his wrong
to heaven and earth. Terrified by this alarming spectacle, Miss
Twinkleton placed another shilling in each hand; at the same time
appealing to the law in flurried accents, and recounting her
luggage this time with the two gentlemen in, who caused the total
to come out complicated. Meanwhile the two gentlemen, each looking
very hard at the last shilling grumblingly, as if it might become
eighteen-pence if he kept his eyes on it, descended the doorsteps,
ascended their carriages, and drove away, leaving Miss Twinkleton
on a bonnet-box in tears.

The Billickin beheld this manifestation of weakness without
sympathy, and gave directions for 'a young man to be got in' to
wrestle with the luggage. When that gladiator had disappeared from
the arena, peace ensued, and the new lodgers dined.

But the Billickin had somehow come to the knowledge that Miss
Twinkleton kept a school. The leap from that knowledge to the
inference that Miss Twinkleton set herself to teach HER something,
was easy. 'But you don't do it,' soliloquised the Billickin; 'I am
not your pupil, whatever she,' meaning Rosa, 'may be, poor thing!'

Miss Twinkleton, on the other hand, having changed her dress and
recovered her spirits, was animated by a bland desire to improve
the occasion in all ways, and to be as serene a model as possible.
In a happy compromise between her two states of existence, she had
already become, with her workbasket before her, the equably
vivacious companion with a slight judicious flavouring of
information, when the Billickin announced herself.

'I will not hide from you, ladies,' said the B., enveloped in the
shawl of state, 'for it is not my character to hide neither my
motives nor my actions, that I take the liberty to look in upon you
to express a 'ope that your dinner was to your liking. Though not
Professed but Plain, still her wages should be a sufficient object
to her to stimilate to soar above mere roast and biled.'

'We dined very well indeed,' said Rosa, 'thank you.'

'Accustomed,' said Miss Twinkleton with a gracious air, which to
the jealous ears of the Billickin seemed to add 'my good woman'--
'accustomed to a liberal and nutritious, yet plain and salutary
diet, we have found no reason to bemoan our absence from the
ancient city, and the methodical household, in which the quiet
routine of our lot has been hitherto cast.'

'I did think it well to mention to my cook,' observed the Billickin
with a gush of candour, 'which I 'ope you will agree with, Miss
Twinkleton, was a right precaution, that the young lady being used
to what we should consider here but poor diet, had better be
brought forward by degrees. For, a rush from scanty feeding to
generous feeding, and from what you may call messing to what you
may call method, do require a power of constitution which is not
often found in youth, particular when undermined by boarding-
school!'

It will be seen that the Billickin now openly pitted herself
against Miss Twinkleton, as one whom she had fully ascertained to
be her natural enemy.

'Your remarks,' returned Miss Twinkleton, from a remote moral
eminence, 'are well meant, I have no doubt; but you will permit me
to observe that they develop a mistaken view of the subject, which
can only be imputed to your extreme want of accurate information.'

'My informiation,' retorted the Billickin, throwing in an extra
syllable for the sake of emphasis at once polite and powerful--'my
informiation, Miss Twinkleton, were my own experience, which I
believe is usually considered to be good guidance. But whether so
or not, I was put in youth to a very genteel boarding-school, the
mistress being no less a lady than yourself, of about your own age
or it may be some years younger, and a poorness of blood flowed
from the table which has run through my life.'

'Very likely,' said Miss Twinkleton, still from her distant
eminence; 'and very much to be deplored.--Rosa, my dear, how are
you getting on with your work?'

'Miss Twinkleton,' resumed the Billickin, in a courtly manner,
'before retiring on the 'int, as a lady should, I wish to ask of
yourself, as a lady, whether I am to consider that my words is
doubted?'

'I am not aware on what ground you cherish such a supposition,'
began Miss Twinkleton, when the Billickin neatly stopped her.

'Do not, if you please, put suppositions betwixt my lips where none
such have been imparted by myself. Your flow of words is great,
Miss Twinkleton, and no doubt is expected from you by your pupils,
and no doubt is considered worth the money. NO doubt, I am sure.
But not paying for flows of words, and not asking to be favoured
with them here, I wish to repeat my question.'

'If you refer to the poverty of your circulation,' began Miss
Twinkleton, when again the Billickin neatly stopped her.

'I have used no such expressions.'

'If you refer, then, to the poorness of your blood--'

'Brought upon me,' stipulated the Billickin, expressly, 'at a
boarding-school--'

'Then,' resumed Miss Twinkleton, 'all I can say is, that I am bound
to believe, on your asseveration, that it is very poor indeed. I
cannot forbear adding, that if that unfortunate circumstance
influences your conversation, it is much to be lamented, and it is
eminently desirable that your blood were richer.--Rosa, my dear,
how are you getting on with your work?'

'Hem! Before retiring, Miss,' proclaimed the Billickin to Rosa,
loftily cancelling Miss Twinkleton, 'I should wish it to be
understood between yourself and me that my transactions in future
is with you alone. I know no elderly lady here, Miss, none older
than yourself.'

'A highly desirable arrangement, Rosa my dear,' observed Miss
Twinkleton.

'It is not, Miss,' said the Billickin, with a sarcastic smile,
'that I possess the Mill I have heard of, in which old single
ladies could be ground up young (what a gift it would be to some of
us), but that I limit myself to you totally.'

'When I have any desire to communicate a request to the person of
the house, Rosa my dear,' observed Miss Twinkleton with majestic
cheerfulness, 'I will make it known to you, and you will kindly
undertake, I am sure, that it is conveyed to the proper quarter.'

'Good-evening, Miss,' said the Billickin, at once affectionately
and distantly. 'Being alone in my eyes, I wish you good-evening
with best wishes, and do not find myself drove, I am truly 'appy to
say, into expressing my contempt for an indiwidual, unfortunately
for yourself, belonging to you.'

The Billickin gracefully withdrew with this parting speech, and
from that time Rosa occupied the restless position of shuttlecock
between these two battledores. Nothing could be done without a
smart match being played out. Thus, on the daily-arising question
of dinner, Miss Twinkleton would say, the three being present
together:

'Perhaps, my love, you will consult with the person of the house,
whether she can procure us a lamb's fry; or, failing that, a roast
fowl.'

On which the Billickin would retort (Rosa not having spoken a
word), 'If you was better accustomed to butcher's meat, Miss, you
would not entertain the idea of a lamb's fry. Firstly, because
lambs has long been sheep, and secondly, because there is such
things as killing-days, and there is not. As to roast fowls, Miss,
why you must be quite surfeited with roast fowls, letting alone
your buying, when you market for yourself, the agedest of poultry
with the scaliest of legs, quite as if you was accustomed to
picking 'em out for cheapness. Try a little inwention, Miss. Use
yourself to 'ousekeeping a bit. Come now, think of somethink
else.'

To this encouragement, offered with the indulgent toleration of a
wise and liberal expert, Miss Twinkleton would rejoin, reddening:

'Or, my dear, you might propose to the person of the house a duck.'

'Well, Miss!' the Billickin would exclaim (still no word being
spoken by Rosa), 'you do surprise me when you speak of ducks! Not
to mention that they're getting out of season and very dear, it
really strikes to my heart to see you have a duck; for the breast,
which is the only delicate cuts in a duck, always goes in a
direction which I cannot imagine where, and your own plate comes
down so miserably skin-and-bony! Try again, Miss. Think more of
yourself, and less of others. A dish of sweetbreads now, or a bit
of mutton. Something at which you can get your equal chance.'

Occasionally the game would wax very brisk indeed, and would be
kept up with a smartness rendering such an encounter as this quite
tame. But the Billickin almost invariably made by far the higher
score; and would come in with side hits of the most unexpected and
extraordinary description, when she seemed without a chance.

All this did not improve the gritty state of things in London, or
the air that London had acquired in Rosa's eyes of waiting for
something that never came. Tired of working, and conversing with
Miss Twinkleton, she suggested working and reading: to which Miss
Twinkleton readily assented, as an admirable reader, of tried
powers. But Rosa soon made the discovery that Miss Twinkleton
didn't read fairly. She cut the love-scenes, interpolated passages
in praise of female celibacy, and was guilty of other glaring pious
frauds. As an instance in point, take the glowing passage: 'Ever
dearest and best adored,--said Edward, clasping the dear head to
his breast, and drawing the silken hair through his caressing
fingers, from which he suffered it to fall like golden rain,--ever
dearest and best adored, let us fly from the unsympathetic world
and the sterile coldness of the stony-hearted, to the rich warm
Paradise of Trust and Love.' Miss Twinkleton's fraudulent version
tamely ran thus: 'Ever engaged to me with the consent of our
parents on both sides, and the approbation of the silver-haired
rector of the district,--said Edward, respectfully raising to his
lips the taper fingers so skilful in embroidery, tambour, crochet,
and other truly feminine arts,--let me call on thy papa ere to-
morrow's dawn has sunk into the west, and propose a suburban
establishment, lowly it may be, but within our means, where he will
be always welcome as an evening guest, and where every arrangement
shall invest economy, and constant interchange of scholastic
acquirements with the attributes of the ministering angel to
domestic bliss.'

As the days crept on and nothing happened, the neighbours began to
say that the pretty girl at Billickin's, who looked so wistfully
and so much out of the gritty windows of the drawing-room, seemed
to be losing her spirits. The pretty girl might have lost them but
for the accident of lighting on some books of voyages and sea-
adventure. As a compensation against their romance, Miss
Twinkleton, reading aloud, made the most of all the latitudes and
longitudes, bearings, winds, currents, offsets, and other
statistics (which she felt to be none the less improving because
they expressed nothing whatever to her); while Rosa, listening
intently, made the most of what was nearest to her heart. So they
both did better than before.

Content of CHAPTER XXII - A GRITTY STATE OF THINGS COMES ON (Charles Dickens' novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood)

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXIII - THE DAWN AGAIN The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXIII - THE DAWN AGAIN

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXIII - THE DAWN AGAIN
CHAPTER XXIII - THE DAWN AGAINAlthough Mr. Crisparkle and John Jasper met daily under theCathedral roof, nothing at any time passed between them havingreference to Edwin Drood, after the time, more than half a yeargone by, when Jasper mutely showed the Minor Canon the conclusionand the resolution entered in his Diary. It is not likely thatthey ever met, though so often, without the thoughts of eachreverting to the subject. It is not likely that they ever met,though so often, without a sensation on the part of each that theother was a perplexing secret to him. Jasper as the denouncer
PREVIOUS BOOKS

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXI - A RECOGNITION The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXI - A RECOGNITION

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood - Chapter XXI - A RECOGNITION
CHAPTER XXI - A RECOGNITIONNothing occurred in the night to flutter the tired dove; and thedove arose refreshed. With Mr. Grewgious, when the clock struckten in the morning, came Mr. Crisparkle, who had come at one plungeout of the river at Cloisterham.'Miss Twinkleton was so uneasy, Miss Rosa,' he explained to her,'and came round to Ma and me with your note, in such a state ofwonder, that, to quiet her, I volunteered on this service by thevery first train to be caught in the morning. I wished at the timethat you had come to me; but now I think
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT