“Glaces cut like blade through bone,
With daggers drawn I glare at you,
There at you who dare presume
To stare at whom
I’d make my wife
And share my life–
I’d see you dead
Before sweet Rosa wed.”
– Neville and Drood, singing in unison, “No Good Can Come from Bad” from the musical Drood by Rupert Holmes.
The above quoted lyrics fit nicely–and likely were inspired by–Chapter Eight’s title, “Daggers Drawn.” After walking Helena and Rosa home to the Nuns’ House, Neville and Drood enter an impolite conversation in which Neville makes reference to Drood’s engagement. “Neville Landless is already enough impressed by Little Rosebud, to feel indignant that Edwin Drood (far below her) should hold his prize so lightly.” There is also suggestion that Drood is similarly impressed by Neville’s sister, Helena.
Jasper comes upon them and remonstrates, “We must have no more of this. I don’t like this. I have overheard high words between you two.” He steers the two young men back to his quarters for a convivial drink. “There, the first object visible, when he adds the light of a lamp to that of the fire, is the portrait over the chimneypiece. It is not an object calculated to improve the understanding between the two young men, as rather awkwardly reviving the subject of their difference.”
Jasper pours a drink for the two men and watches as they converse. The conversation does not go well. Perhaps something was put in the drink? Drood infuriates Neville, and Neville “flings the dregs of his wine at Edwin Drood.” Neville stalks out and returns to Mr. Crisparkle’s. He confesses to the Minor Canon that he has “begun dreadfully ill.”
Crisparkle notes that Neville doesn’t appear to be sober. Neville agrees but can’t understand why as he states, “I have had very little indeed to drink.”
“He goaded me, sir,” Neville continues. He tells a little of what transpired and retired to his room where he sobs with self-reproach.
Before Crisparkle too can retire to bed, Jasper arrives and expresses concern over what had transpired in his quarters. “I shall never know peace of mind when there is danger of those two coming together with no one else to interfere.”
In the next chapter, we learn more of the orphaned Rosa Bud. Her mother drowned when she was a child, and her father died of a broken heart a year after the tragic occurrence. Soon after this exposition, news of the quarrel between Neville and Drood has reached the Nuns’ House. Though the rumors exaggerate the actuality. Helena Landless goes to her brother to get the real story of what transpired and then relates it to Rosa.
Mr. Grewgious, Rosa’s guardian, come for a visit. He talks of “pounds, shillings, and pence” and other business related to Rosa’s affairs. “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.” Rosa is alarmed that Jasper should get a copy of the will as well, but she goes on to inquire about particulars. She learns that should she and Edwin not marry there would be no forfeiture. The betrothal is merely a wish of their respective fathers.
The matter, as per Rosa’s wish, is to be settled between her and Drood at Christmastime. Drood having returned to London the day after his quarrel with Neville.
Mr. Grewgious seeks out Jasper and has a brief conversation about his meeting with Rosa. Jasper asks if there was any especial reason for Grewgious having told Rosa that the engagement is not binding. “I assure you that this implies not the least doubt of, or disrespect to, your nephew.” Grewgious also informs Jasper of Rosa’s intent to settle matters at Christmastime.
“God bless them,” says Grewgious. “God save them!” cried Jasper. After a questioning look from Grewgious, Jasper adds, “Is there any difference?”
So ends the chapter and the second installment of Dicken’s Mystery of Edwin Drood.
So far, Jasper is seen to be manipulating events, but to what end exactly? Has the opportune arrival of Neville given him a scapegoat?
At present, the story continues to build up to some momentous event, likely involving murder. But what mystery is there? Is Jasper too obvious as the likely killer? So far his actions have that tinge of villainy. Yet he is more the protagonist–or at least primary character–of the story than anyone else at this point.
Read along with The Poisoned Martini each week and examine the the origins of mysteries in the earliest examples of the genre. Next week, stop by for Chapters Ten and Eleven.