The following is a Gaslight etext....

A message to you about copyright and permissions



by Anonymous
from Cornhill Magazine, 1884-mar

THIS article has been written from the point of view of a mere reader of this unfinished story, and the solution here suggested is based on internal evidence only. Indeed, the article itself is the result of the fascination the mystery had on the writer's mind, when he lately read it for the first time. He believes that this is the first attempt to solve the mystery that has contented itself simply and solely with the story as left by Charles Dickens, and the writer has merely endeavoured to do, in the form of a short article, what every reader of "Edwin Drood" endeavours to do in his head, viz. to deduce a correct conclusion from somewhat incomplete premises.

  An ordinary reader must come to the conclusion that John Jasper got rid of his nephew, Edwin Drood; and yet, if such be the case, the inevitable question arises, Where, then, is the mystery? The answer is, In the manner of the riddance. So forcibly does internal evidence point to this conclusion, that one feels suspicious of being entrapped into an enticing but nevertheless erroneous solution. However, the general impression left by the proof is that Jasper is guilty, all impression formed from a touch here, an expression there, till the circumstantial evidence which in the story tells against Neville Landless is woven by the reader round Jasper. The question--what became of Edwin Drood?--will be answered anon; but, first, the appearances which point to Jasper as the murderer must be briefly sketched.

  First of all, Jasper is found in an opium den. That a man should take opium thus is presumptive evidence that there is something in or about him different to other men: it is uncanny. But it may be objected, De Quincey took opium. True, but he did so privately, and even De Quincey, we fancy, would have foregone the pleasures--to say nothing of the pains--of opium, rather than enter an East-end den for their enjoyment. Nor did De Quincey smoke opium, but drink it; so that the cases are not exactly parallel.

  Why does Jasper listen so attentively to the mutterings of his three companion smokers, the woman, Chinaman, and Lascar? and why does he say to each that one word "Unintelligible"? This will be explained hereafter.

  On the evening of that day Jasper and Edwin Drood, uncle and nephew, are together, and during their conversation the following dialogue ensues:--


Jasper--"You won't be warned, then?"
Edwin--"No, Jack."
Jasper--"You can't be warned, then?"
Edwin--"No, Jack, not by you. Besides, I don't really consider myself in danger."

  Why should he? and why, having gone so far, could not Jasper confide in his nephew? He warns him against a danger without saying what the danger is. Is it a warning? Is it not a threat?

  Mr. Jasper is scarcely the man to be fascinated by Mr. Sapsea's self-complacency, and his politeness to the future mayor has surely some object underlying it. Durdles, too, is a strange acquaintance to be so enthusiastically taken up, and Jasper seems strangely interested in his keys. There is something which prejudices a reader against Jasper, and when it is discovered from Rosa's conversation with Helena that he loves Rosa, we feel that his extraordinary affection for his nephew is rather at variance with what we should expect, seeing that there is so strong a reason for jealousy.

  The quarrel between Edwin and Neville in the street is evidently overheard by Jasper, who, while pretending to be a peacemaker by inviting them to his hospitable gate-house, with truly diabolical skill turns the conversation anew on the betrothal, and the quarrel breaks out afresh. Not satisfied with an ordinary quarrel, Jasper aggravates it by drugging the wine, thereby causing Neville's passion to blaze out so furiously against Edwin. To make this result yet more certain, Jasper looking from one to the other in turn as they make irritating remarks, knowing well that the presence of a third person always aggravates a quarrel between two others.

  Jasper takes advantage of the ill-feeling between the young men, so as to have at hand an acknowledged enemy to Edwin, should such be required, and in this spirit he makes the most of the quarrel to Mr. Crisparkle that same night, and hastens next day to inform Mrs. Crisparkle as well. The latter action admits of two interpretations, a polite and a cunning. Mr. Crisparkle would have kept the affair secret from his mother, but Jasper was too quick for him. He wished every one round him to know of Neville's animosity against Edwin, aware how greatly prejudice governs opinion, whether it be public or private.

  Had Rosa's interview with Mr. Grewgious been only a trifle more confidential on Rosa's part, the whole course of events might have been altered. But, as it was, Mr. Grewgious had no suspicion of any disagreement between the betrothed, and consequently assured the white-lipped and anxious Jasper that Rosa had hinted no wish to be released from Edwin. They separate with the full understanding that the marriage will take place. Is there any difference between the "God bless them both!" of Mr. Grewgious and the "God save them both!" of Mr. Jasper? We fear so.

  Perhaps the strongest hint in the book as to the murderer is the passage describing Mr. Crisparkle finding Jasper asleep on a couch, when he called at the gate-house one evening, viz.: "Long afterwards he had cause to remember how Jasper sprang from the couch in a delirious state between sleeping and waking, and crying out: 'What is the matter? Who did it?'" The proposal that he shall make peace between Edwin and Neville perplexes Jasper at first, for it is what he scarcely desires; but he seems to consider that their meeting at his house may be to his own advantage, and agrees to it. He explains his brief perplexity by showing some entries in his diary--made on the night of the quarrel--which express his fear of Neville's resentment against Edwin in the strongest language, and Mr. Crisparkle is satisfied.

  The ring, that was to have been Rosa's engagement-ring, is a rose of diamonds and rubies delicately set in gold, and is contained in an ordinary ring-case made for a single ring. This Mr. Grewgious delivers to Edwin, charging him solemnly to bring it back to him if anything should be amiss between him and Rosa. It is plain that this ring is to be an important element in the story, especially when come these significant words, "Let them" (the jewels in the ring) "be. Let them lie unspoken of in his breast. However distinctly or indistinctly he entertained these thoughts, he arrived at the conclusion, Let them be. Among the mighty store of wonderful chains that are for ever forging, day and night, in the vast iron-works of time and circumstance, there was one chain forged in the moment of that small conclusion, riveted to the foundations of heaven and earth, and gifted with invincible force to hold and drag." The origin of this mysterious sentence is Edwin's act in putting the ring back in his breast, without mentioning it to Rosa, when they mutually break off the engagement between them. As they said "Good-bye"--little knowing all it meant--they kissed each other fervently. To them it was a kiss that meant that thenceforth they were to be to one another as brother and sister only, but to the watchful Jasper's jealous eyes it seemed but a lovers' parting salutation, and from that moment Edwin Drood was doomed.

  Just previous to this interview, Mr. Jasper has had "a night with Durdles." The first thing to be noticed in a notable chapter is that they pass a mound by the yard-gate, and that Durdles warns Jasper to beware of it, as it is quicklime, adding grimly, "with a little handy stirring quick enough to eat your bones," which naturally makes an impression on Jasper. Entering the Cathedral they go down into the crypt;, of which Durdles has the key. Jasper has brought with him a bottle, whose contents, whatever they may be, prove at last too strong for Durdles, for after ascending the great tower and descending into the crypt again, he sinks down by one of the pillars and falls asleep at once. In his sleep he dreams that something touches him, and that something falls from his hands, and when he wakes he finds Jasper walking up and down, and sees the key of the crypt door lying at his side. It is two o'clock, so that Durdles has had a long sleep--so long that we are inclined to believe that Jasper has tried his trick of drugging again. As they finally emerge from the Cathedral, Deputy appears, with his fire of stones aud impish chant, whereat Jasper's rage is unaccountable--except on the supposition that the expedition was not so unaccountable after all, and that a witness of it was what John Jasper least expected or desired.

  On the eventful Christmas Eve, Edwin Drood and Neville Landless are to meet at the gate-house, and what each does during the day is of some importance, in consequence of after event Neville burns his stray papers, prepares for a walking excursion, and buys a heavy stick: all which circumstances will be used against him afterwards. Edwin goes into the jeweller's shop to have his watch set, and the jeweller tells him of Jasper's remark that he (Jasper) knew all the jewellery his nephew wore, viz. watch, chain, and shirt-pin; a subject to be recurred to again. Edwin's subsequent conversation with the opium woman is, though he knows it not, a terrible warning. She tells him that Ned is a dangerous name, a threatened name, to which he lightly replies, "The proverb says that threatened men live long." "Then Ned--so threatened is he--should live to all eternity," retorts the woman, and Edwin resolves to mention it to Jack (who alone calls him Ned) to-morrow. Why not to-day; why not to-day?

  Jasper spends the day to some purpose, making much of his affection for his nephew to the shopkeepers whom he deals with, and calling on Mr. Sapsea to mention his dinner party of three that night, and to insidiously prejudice him still further against Neville. Quite different is his method with Mr. Crisparkle. He assures him he has overcome his black humours and fears of Neville, and that he means to burn this year's diary at the year's end. After this, come what may, the Minor Canon cannot possibly suspect Jasper. To-day Jasper has been wearing a large black scarf of strong close-woven silk, and before entering his gate-house he pulls it off and hangs it in a loop on his arm. "For that brief time, his face is knitted and stern. But it immediately clears as he resumes his singing and his way." And the three meet.

  There is a great storm that night, and next morning Edwin Drood has disappeared. Neville has started on his walking tour, but being suspected is brought back. His story is simply that he and Edwin went down to the river at about twelve o'clock to watch the storm, that they stayed for about ten minutes, and that Edwin finally left him at Mr. Crisparkle's door, saying he was going straight back to the gate-house. However, Jasper's deference to Mr. Sapsea now meets with its reward, for the mayor by his conduct certainly prejudices opinion against Neville, and unconsciously assists Jasper plans.

  But when Mr. Grewgious coldly and dispassionately informs Jasper that Edwin and Rosa's engagement was broken off before that terrible Christmas Eve, and that Edwin had forborne to tell him of it out of consideration for his uncle's feelings, Mr. Jasper breaks utterly down. To have committed murder is terrible enough to a murderer's mind, but to learn that the murder was utterly objectless and fruitless--to learn it suddenly and without a moment's warning--is one of those stunning surprises which even the strongest nature cannot endure, and hence it is that Jasper swoons away at Mr. Grewgious' news.

  But a man of resource like Jasper soon recovers his wits, and, after telling Mr. Grewgious and Mr. Crisparkle (who has joined them) that no quarrel took place between Edwin and Neville in his house that night, he starts the theory that Edwin may have gone away to spare himself the pain of awkward explanations, fitting this theory in cleverly with what Mr. Grewgious had just previously told him. That Neville loved Rosa is another piece of news to Jasper, which, though scarcely likely to improve the latter's feelings towards Neville, at once suggests a powerful motive for Edwin's destruction by his old enemy. Jasper still clings to his new theory, till, as he had foreseen, Edwin's watch, chain, and shirt-pin are found at the weir by Mr. Crisparkle, and everything points not to absconding but to murder. The jeweller's opinion that the watch had not been re-wound since Edwin's visit to his shop (it had certainly run down before being cast into the water) justified the hypothesis that it was taken from Edwin not long after he left Jasper's house at midnight with Neville, and had been thrown away after being retained some hours. Rosa's evidence, too, dismisses the theory of absconding, and Jasper shows Mr. Crisparkle an entry in his diary, which declares his conviction that Edwin was murdered--a conviction that we can hardly doubt.

  Now comes the question, how did Jasper effect his awful purpose? After parting with Neville at Mr. Crisparkle's door, Edwin went straight back to the gate-house. Whether Jasper drugged him there under guise of hospitality (and we know him to be a proficient in the art), or by a sudden attack rendered all resistance impossible, matters little. he must have strangled him with that great black scarf, and then--how was he to dispose of the body? Referring to the night expedition with Durdles, it will be remembered that Durdles slept for a long time--probably not far short of two hours--in the crypt, and that he dropped the key of the crypt-door from his hand. Thus Jasper had ample time to leave the crypt in order to select a place for the interment of his future victim. The crypt itself was out of the question, because not only was Durdles then present, but it was notoriously one of the places in which he took a delight in making discoveries. Hence any tampering with the walls or pavement would be almost certainly detected. But where else?

  On this expedition--as indeed always--Durdles carried his dinner bundle, and on a former occasion that bundle contained the key of Mrs. Sapsea's tomb. Presuming, as we fairly may, that it contained this key that night, Jasper, having the bundle, had it in his power either to take a cast of the key or to substitute another for it, so as to see for himself if there were room in the tomb for another body. He had carefully scrutinised the key before: consequently nothing would be easier than to procure a similar one and to appropriate the real key, while substituting the false one in Durdle's bundle. Indeed, if the substituted key were not precisely similar to the real, it would not open the tomb, which would be the more advantageous to Jasper.

  Mention was also made of a mound of quicklime they passed by, and it is our opinion that either then (while Durdles slept), or on the night of the murder, Jasper procured some of this quicklime, and put it in Mrs. Sapsea's tomb, afterwards inserting the body of the hapless Edwin. The quicklime would speedily destroy the body, and long before the tomb was again opened--which would probably not be till Mr. Sapsea's death--all traces would have disappeared. Jasper had but to carry the body from the gate-house to the tomb, apparently no great distance; and any risk he ran of being seen was much diminished by the wildness of the night. Having finally disposed of his victim, he must have gone to the weir, and cleverly arranged the watch-chain so that it caught in the interstices of the timbers, while he flung the shirt-pin into the water, lest the discovery of all these articles at once might arouse suspicion from the fact of their clumsy exposure.

  To rid himself of the corpse, to get to the weir (some two miles off), to arrange the jewellery, and to be safely back in his gate-house again without being seen, make up a night's work from which the boldest criminal might well shrink; but the fury of the storm favoured the murderer, and but for his collapse at Mr. Grewgious' news Jasper might never have been suspected. The scheme by which it falls to Mr. Crisparkle to find the watch, so that he becomes one of the chief witnesses against Neville, is an admirable stroke on Jasper's part, but it is more than counterbalanced by what Mr. Grewgious saw as he warmed his hands, "a heap of torn and miry clothes upon the floor."

  Mr. Datchery we take to be a detective, employed by Mr. Grewgious to keep a watch on Jasper. Notice his look of interest when Deputy, pointing to part of the gate-house, says, "That's Jasper's;" also his excessive politeness to Mr. Sapsea, and remember that Jasper's politeness to the same person was not without an object. His white hair, too, is unusually thick and ample, and he has black eyebrows, which is strange.

  More than half a year has gone since Edwin's disappearance, and Jasper naturally considers himself safe, so safe indeed that, when he avows his love to Rosa, he tells her that had his affection for his nephew been one silken thread less strong he would have swept even him from his path. A faint suspicion of Jasper had before crossed Rosa's mind, and now recurs with redoubled force, but the only object for such a crime--to win her--seems altogether too slight to account for it; so she hides her suspicion. If Neville and his sister suspect him, they say nothing; Mr. Crisparkle is too open and frank to suspect anyone, and Mr. Grewgious acknowledges that he dislikes Jasper, but nothing more. How is the murderer to be brought to justice?

  Old habits can seldom be relinquished altogether, and we cannot be much surprised at finding Jasper in the opium den once more. The vision he has, under the influence of opium, aud the broken sentences extracted from him by the woman, speak for themselves. As he lies in stupor on the bed the woman exclaims, "I heard ye say once, when I was lying where you're lying, and you were making your speculations on me, 'Unintelligible!' I heard you say so, of two more than me. But don't be too sure always; don't ye be too sure, beauty!' From which we gather, that in the first scene of all, this woman had listened to his comment on herself and companions, and had from that time devoted herself to learn his secret. It explains, too, why she tracked him that Christmas Eve, when she unconsciously warned the generous Edwin of his danger, and explains her exclamation, now, when Jasper leaves her house, "I'll not miss ye twice!"

  She follows him to Cloisterham and falls in with Mr. Datchery, who extracts information from her that rather astonishes him. After bargaining with Deputy to find out where she lives in London, Mr. Datchery in the Cathedral next morning sees the woman's threatening gestures at Jasper, and afterwards hears from her own lips that she recognises him. He returns home for breakfast, opens his cupboard door, "takes his bit of chalk from its shelf, adds one thick line to the score, extending from the top of the cupboard door to the bottom, and then falls to with an appetite."

  Here the unfinished story breaks off at an exciting moment, and it only remains to consider how Jasper's detection was brought about. Mr. Datchery doubtless confided all he had learnt to Mr. Grewgious, and they probably prevailed on the opium woman to allow them, or one of them, to be present at Jasper's next visit, the time of which they could ascertain for themselves. Lieutenant Tartar, disguised as a sailor, might, in the most natural manner, be present at the same time in the den, and the woman's questions (suggested, maybe, by Mr. Datchery) to Jasper, when under the influence of opium, might extract valuable hints as to the manner of the crime, the bestowal of the body, &c., hints which a clever detective like Datchery might well piece together with the evidence obtainable from Deputy and Durdles. Deputy, be it remembered, saw Jasper and Durdles leaving the Cathedral on the night--or rather the morning--of their "unaccountable expedition," and could testify to Jasper's explosion of anger at his sudden appearance. Any account given by Durdles of what took place that night would be none too clear, but even he could not have forgotten dropping the key of the crypt-door, and the fact of Jasper having carried the bundle.

  But what then? Supposing Jasper to have let fall a hint as to the burial of the body, the crypt would naturally be first thought of as a likely spot. Baffled there, for Durdles could soon tell if anything had been disturbed, attention would be drawn to the two keys carried by Durdles, and finally to that which had been in his dinner bundle, viz. the key of Mrs. Sapsea's tomb. But what could be discovered on opening it? Scarcely a body, for more than six months had elapsed since Edwin's disappearance. Scarcely even bones, for, if the hypothesis that quicklime was used be the correct one, no bones would remain. Indeed, what could remain? What could resist the destructive properties of quicklime?

  The answer is--the stones of the ring given by Mr. Grewgious to Edwin, and never seen since. We know that Jasper (so the jeweller told Edwin) had a precise knowledge of Edwin's jewellery, and, exactly in accordance with that knowledge, Edwin's watch, chain, and shirt-pin were found at the weir. But Jasper could have had no knowledge of this ring, kept as it was in a case in Edwin's breast, unless, indeed, he examined his pockets after despatching him; which is unlikely, as plunder was by no means his object. It is almost certain, then, that the ring was buried on the body, and even if the action of the quicklime could destroy the case and the gold setting of the stones, it could not possibly affect the stones themselves, which were diamonds and rubies. These, Mr. Grewgious could readily identify, and Bazzard could prove that the ring was delivered to Edwin. The ring, or the stones, once found and identified, the accumulated evidence of Mr. Grewgious, Mr. Datchery, Durdles, Deputy, Mr. Crisparkle, Rosa, and the opium woman, would, we think, assuredly convict Jasper of Edwin Drood's murder, while his conscience-stricken appearance at the prospect of detection, when the first breath of suspicion fastened on him, would at once popularly condemn him.

  In conclusion, let us make a guess at the future of some of the other characters in the book. Mr. Tartar and Rosa would ere long be husband and wife, and we fancy Helena Landless would become Mrs. Crisparkle. Neville, cleared from all suspicion, would have to begin the world anew: Mr. Datchery and Durdles must remain as they are: we would not have them alter one whit. And Deputy? We can, perhaps, imagine (but faintly) his delight at "Jarsper's" downfall, and by using our eyes keenly may discern him indulging, as once before, "in a slow aud stately dance, perhaps supposed to be performed by the Dean," to more fully express his ecstasy.

  (1) The present number of our magazine was of necessity in print before the announcement of Mr. Luke Fildes' paper upon "Edwin Drood;" our contributor, therefore, has had no opportunity of comparing his views with those of one who has had peculiar opportunities of information upon the subject.--ED. C.M. <=== BACK