“It has been often enough remarked that women have a curious power of divining the characters of men, which would seem to be innate and instinctive…”
So begins the tenth chapter of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Mrs. Crisparkle having learned of Neville’s transgression in quarreling with Drood at Jasper’s residence believes Neville “may come to good, but I don’t believe that he will.” Septimus Crisparkle tries to dissuade his mother from her opinion, but to no avail.
He leaves for his usual nightly walk to “his favorite fragment of ruin” which overlooks the Cloisterham Weir. “The river at Cloisterham is sufficiently near the sea to throw up oftentimes a quantity of seaweed,” we are told.
On this particular nightly jaunt, Crisparkle encounters Neville and his sister, Helena. Crisparkle express his concerns about general perceptions and urges Neville to make an apology. He appeals to Helena for support. Her reply is to the point. ” ‘Oh, Mr. Crisparkle, would you have Neville throw himself at young Drood’s feet, or at Mr. Jasper’s, who maligns him every day! In your heart you cannot mean it. From your hear you could not do it, if his case were yours.’ ”
Later, Crisparkle makes note of Helena’s strong character, having overcome adverse circumstances in her youth. Such circumstances had been shared with Neville who hasn’t overcome his hot-blooded passion but can be guided by his sister.
It’s said the feud between Drood and Neville must not go on. Neville confesses to Crisparkle what his sister already knows. He is smitten with Rosa Bud and would be her champion even if that pits him against her husband-to-be. “I cannot bear her being treated with conceit or indifference,” Neville says.
Crisparkle resolves to bring Drood and Neville together for mutual apology. He seeks out Jasper to this end and discovers the choirmaster in a waking sleep in his quarters. “Long afterwards he had cause to remember how Jasper sprang from the couch in a delirious state between sleeping and waking, crying out: ‘What it the matter? Who did it?’ ” Crisparkle finds Jasper perplexed. Further, Jasper shows disturbing diary entries to Crisparkle that relate fears of finding his nephew “lying dead in his blood.”
Jasper does however intercede with his nephew, and Drood writes of wishing “that bygone to be a bygone” and to ask Neville to dinner Christmas Eve.
The scene shifts in the next chapter to London and Mr. Grewgious, Rosa Bud’s guardian. In Grewgious’ business rooms, we meet the mysterious Bazzard. “This attendant was a mysterious being, possessed of some strange power over Mr. Grewgious. As though he had been called into existence, like a fabulous Familiar, by a magic spell which had failed when required to dismiss him.”
Presently, Drood comes to pay Grewgious a visit. There is some much needed humor here, especially as Grewgious mistakes Drood’s meaning when learning of Drood’s pet name for Rosa and is asked about the Landlesses. It starts off as a jovial, light-hearted eleventh chapter, but by degrees, turns to business matters as Grewgious discusses Rosa’s father’s will lately received by Drood.
Most importantly, Grewgious gives Drood a ring of diamonds and rubies that once belonged to Rosa’s mother. The ring is to be a seal of the young lovers’ commitment to each other. But, Grewgious tells him, “If you should have any secret consciousness that you are committing yourself to this step for no higher reason than because you have long been accustomed to look forward to it,” then the ring should be returned to Grewgious’s keeping.
And before chapter’s end we learn that Grewgious had been in love with Rosa’s mother.
There is much foreshadowing in these two chapters. From the introduction of the Cloisterham Weir to Jasper’s diary entries to Grewgious wondering if the ring will be returned to him. Grewgious, too, makes the connection of Rosa to her mother. “How like her mother she has become!” Rosa’s mother drowned tragically, and parallels often exist in fiction. Is this tragic backstory more relevant to present circumstances than we’ve been led to believe?
The Mystery of Edwin Drood was released in installments, beginning in April 1870, and scheduled to run through February 1871. The death of Charles Dickens in June 1870 brought an abrupt end to the story about halfway through. Three installments (July, August and September) appeared posthumously. Each installment consisted of three or four chapters.
Stop by next week for Chapters Twelve and Thirteen, an evening with Durdles and a meeting with Rosa.