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Drood Summary: First Installment (Chapters I-V)

Prepared by Cindy Kogut

The Mystery of Edwin Drood opens with a question. The 
reader,like the character in whose mind we find ourselves,
is uncertain where he is and what is going on. The scene 
gradually resolves into a squalid opium den, where an 
unnamed man wakes up from his drugged state and discovers 
himself in the company of "a Chinaman, a Lascar, and a 
haggard woman," the last being the proprietor of the place. 
The unnamed man listens attentively to the drugged 
mutterings of all three of his companions, but 
finds them all unintelligible, which seems to reassure
him. He then leaves the opium den. The chapter ends 
with a vignette of an unnamed traveler hurrying toward 
a Cathedral and joining the choir going into the service.

After the service at Cloisterham Cathedral, the Dean, 
Tope (the Cathedral's verger), and Mr. Crisparkle (the 
Minor Canon) discuss the sudden illness of Mr. Jasper, 
the choir master.  Tope states that Jasper seemed to 
have a "kind of fit" during the service, which caused him 
to seem dazed, "though he didn't seem to mind it
particularly."  Tope also mentions that Jasper's nephew 
is due to arrive soon. At the Dean's request, Mr. 
Crisparkle visits Jasper and asks after his health.
Jasper assures him that he is fine.

Edwin Drood, Jasper's nephew, arrives immediately after 
Mr.Crisparkle's departure.  After the two dine, Edwin 
proposes that they drink a toast to "Pussy," whose 
birthday it is. They then have a little talk about her 
(she is studying music with Jasper).  Drood complains 
about the fact that his and Pussy's late fathers have 
betrothed the two of them; he feels "cut off from choice," 
even though he would choose her anyway. He compares his
planned-out life unfavorably to Jasper's,which he envies. 
At this point, Jasper looks ill, which he explains as 
the after-effects of opium that he has been taking 
for "an agony" that sometimes overcomes him. 

Jasper then reveals to Drood that he hates "the cramped 
monotony" of his existence. He hates the Cathedral, the 
choir, the service, everything. He makes Drood promise
not to reveal this confidence to anyone else, and says 
that Drood should take what he has been told "as a 
warning." Drood assumes that he means to be careful that 
his own life doesn't end up as unhappy as Jasper's, 
and blithely informs him that once Pussy and he are 
married everything will be fine.

The day after this dinner party, Drood calls on "Pussy," 
whose real name is Rosa Bud, at the Nuns' House, the 
"Seminary for Young Ladies" where she lives.  The two talk 
in Miss Twinkleton's parlor, where Drood brings up the 
possibility of stopping short of marriage. Rosa says that 
they must get married or the other girls in the seminary 
would be disappointed. They go for a walk and end up 
quarreling, which is apparently the inevitable outcome of 
their moments together. She wishes they could be just 
friends rather than expected to marry each other. He asks 
her if there is any other man in her life, to which she 
replies in the negative. As the two pass by the Cathedral 
and hear the choir, Drood remarks on hearing Jasper's 
voice, which seems to frighten Rosa. She asks him to 
take her back to the Nuns' House immediately, which he does.

Mr. Sapsea, the auctioneer and a pompous ass, invites 
Jasper over to "consult [his] opinion as a man of taste" 
about the epitaph he has written for his late wife.  
Durdles, the stonemason, arrives soon after to receive 
the inscription he is to carve on Mrs. Sapsea's monument.  
Durdles is a well-known character in Cloisterham, famous 
both for his drunkenness and for the fact that he can find 
ancient graves in and around the Cathedral. Mr. Sapsea 
gives him the key to the monument. For some reason, Jasper 
seems to be fascinated by the keys that Durdles keeps in 
his pockets, and plays with them for a while before 
handing them back to Durdles, who then takes his leave. 
Jasper is detained a while further by Mr. Sapsea, but 
finally escapes by promising to visit again at another time.

On his way home, Jasper sees Durdles and a "hideous 
small boy" in the moonlight. The boy is stoning Durdles, 
who doesn't seem to mind it. Jasper grabs the urchin, who 
explains that Durdles pays him a halfpenny to "pelt him 
home" if the boy "ketches him out too late." Jasper asks 
Durdles to confirm this story, which he does, saying 
that the boy's name is Deputy and he works at the 
Travellers' Twopenny, a disreputable inn. Jasper offers 
to walk home with Durdles and professes an interest in 
Durdles' ability to find where people are buried.  
He mentions that he is interested in being taken on by 
Durdles as a "sort of student" and being allowed to see 
some of the "odd nooks" of which Durdles knows. Durdles 
agrees in a general way by pointing out that he can be 
found if he's wanted. Jasper returns to his home and 
looks down on the sleeping Edwin Drood before going 
into his own room, carrying with him a "peculiar-looking 
pipe" that isn't filled with tobacco.