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Chapter by Chapter: The Mystery of Edwin Drood XII

The saga of Edwin Drood comes to an unsatisfactory close for its intended outcome can only be a matter of mere speculation.  Before its end, we have one last chapter coincidentally named “The Dawn Again,” recalling the first chapter’s moniker and bringing the novel full circle.

The juxtaposition between Jasper and Crisparkle is immediate.

“Although Mr. Crisparkle and John Jasper met daily under the Cathedral roof, nothing at any time passed between them bearing reference to Edwin Drood after the time, more than half a year gone by, when Jasper mutely showed the Minor Canon [Crisparkle] the conclusion and the resolution entered in his [Jasper’s] Diary. It is not likely that they ever met, though so often without the thoughts of each reverting to the subject. It is not likely that they ever met, though so often, without a sensation on the part of each that the other was a perplexing secret to him.”

Jasper is set upon denouncing Neville Landless while Crisparkle has done everything to protect the young man accused by Jasper.

“Drowsy Cloisterham, whenever it awoke to a passing reconsideration of a story above six months old … was pretty equally divided in opinion whether John Jasper’s beloved nephew had been killed by his passionate rival, treacherously, or in an open struggle: or had, for his own purposes, spirited himself away.”

It is easy, therefore, for Jasper to slip away to London.  There “he ascends a broken staircase, opens a door, looks into a dark stifling room.”  Once again, he has come to visit the haggard woman.  She is surprised to see him.

“I didn’t suppose you could have kept away, alive, so long, from the poor old soul with the real receipt for mixing it. And you are in mourning too! Why didn’t you come and have a pipe or two of comfort? Did they leave you money, perhaps, and so you didn’t want comfort?”

Jasper admits to having taken opium “now and then in my own way.”

In course of conversation Jasper wonders, “Suppose you had something in your mind, something you were going to do.”  Further he supposes, “Should you do it in your fancy, when you were lying here doing this?”

The haggard woman’s prompting elicits what might be taken as a confession from Jasper.  “I did it over and over again. I have done it hundreds of thousands of times in this room … It was pleasant to do!”

For whatever strange reason or purpose, the haggard woman seems to rouse and listen attentively to Jasper’s ramblings.  But why?  When Jasper takes his leave, she follows him all the way to Cloisterham.  “I’ll not miss ye twice!” she says, for she followed him once before.

This time, she encounters Dick Datchery.  In the course of their conversation, she tells him about her prior visit to Cloisterham and chance meeting with a young gentleman by the name of Edwin.

Later, Datchery learns from the urchin boy Deputy that the woman is ” ‘Er Royal Highness the Princess Puffer” and that she intends to visit the Catehdral tomorrow.  Datchery discerns her at the service.  He watches her spy on Jasper.  She appears threatening, shaking both fists at Jasper.  When Datchery catches up to her after the service ends, she tells him she recognized Jasper.  “Know him! Better far, than all the Reverend Parsons put together know him.”

The chapter ends with Datchery opening a corner cupboard in his room and with chalk “adds one thick line to the score.”  Datchery likes “the old tavern way of keeping scores. Illegible, except to the scorer.”

So many questions raised by one chapter!  Just who is the mysterious haggard woman, the Princess Puffer?  And why does she seem to hate Jasper?  What score is Datchery keeping track of and why?  And who is Datchery?  Did Jasper kill Drood or does he only think he did?


Stay tuned and stop by next week for Afterthoughts and a few speculations on The Mystery of Edwin Drood.




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