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- The Mystery of Edwin Drood - 5/60 -
her list of recitals bearing on such unprofitable questions.
As, in some cases of drunkenness, and in others of animal magnetism, there are two states of consciousness which never clash, but each of which pursues its separate course as though it were continuous instead of broken (thus, if I hide my watch when I am drunk, I must be drunk again before I can remember where), so Miss Twinkleton has two distinct and separate phases of being. Every night, the moment the young ladies have retired to rest, does Miss Twinkleton smarten up her curls a little, brighten up her eyes a little, and become a sprightlier Miss Twinkleton than the young ladies have ever seen. Every night, at the same hour, does Miss Twinkleton resume the topics of the previous night, comprehending the tenderer scandal of Cloisterham, of which she has no knowledge whatever by day, and references to a certain season at Tunbridge Wells (airily called by Miss Twinkleton in this state of her existence 'The Wells'), notably the season wherein a certain finished gentleman (compassionately called by Miss Twinkleton, in this stage of her existence, 'Foolish Mr. Porters') revealed a homage of the heart, whereof Miss Twinkleton, in her scholastic state of existence, is as ignorant as a granite pillar. Miss Twinkleton's companion in both states of existence, and equally adaptable to either, is one Mrs. Tisher: a deferential widow with a weak back, a chronic sigh, and a suppressed voice, who looks after the young ladies' wardrobes, and leads them to infer that she has seen better days. Perhaps this is the reason why it is an article of faith with the servants, handed down from race to race, that the departed Tisher was a hairdresser.
The pet pupil of the Nuns' House is Miss Rosa Bud, of course called Rosebud; wonderfully pretty, wonderfully childish, wonderfully whimsical. An awkward interest (awkward because romantic) attaches to Miss Bud in the minds of the young ladies, on account of its being known to them that a husband has been chosen for her by will and bequest, and that her guardian is bound down to bestow her on that husband when he comes of age. Miss Twinkleton, in her seminarial state of existence, has combated the romantic aspect of this destiny by affecting to shake her head over it behind Miss Bud's dimpled shoulders, and to brood on the unhappy lot of that doomed little victim. But with no better effect--possibly some unfelt touch of foolish Mr. Porters has undermined the endeavour-- than to evoke from the young ladies an unanimous bedchamber cry of 'O, what a pretending old thing Miss Twinkleton is, my dear!'
The Nuns' House is never in such a state of flutter as when this allotted husband calls to see little Rosebud. (It is unanimously understood by the young ladies that he is lawfully entitled to this privilege, and that if Miss Twinkleton disputed it, she would be instantly taken up and transported.) When his ring at the gate- bell is expected, or takes place, every young lady who can, under any pretence, look out of window, looks out of window; while every young lady who is 'practising,' practises out of time; and the French class becomes so demoralised that the mark goes round as briskly as the bottle at a convivial party in the last century.
On the afternoon of the day next after the dinner of two at the gatehouse, the bell is rung with the usual fluttering results.
'Mr. Edwin Drood to see Miss Rosa.'
This is the announcement of the parlour-maid in chief. Miss Twinkleton, with an exemplary air of melancholy on her, turns to the sacrifice, and says, 'You may go down, my dear.' Miss Bud goes down, followed by all eyes.
Mr. Edwin Drood is waiting in Miss Twinkleton's own parlour: a dainty room, with nothing more directly scholastic in it than a terrestrial and a celestial globe. These expressive machines imply (to parents and guardians) that even when Miss Twinkleton retires into the bosom of privacy, duty may at any moment compel her to become a sort of Wandering Jewess, scouring the earth and soaring through the skies in search of knowledge for her pupils.
The last new maid, who has never seen the young gentleman Miss Rosa is engaged to, and who is making his acquaintance between the hinges of the open door, left open for the purpose, stumbles guiltily down the kitchen stairs, as a charming little apparition, with its face concealed by a little silk apron thrown over its head, glides into the parlour.
'O! IT IS so ridiculous!' says the apparition, stopping and shrinking. 'Don't, Eddy!'
'Don't what, Rosa?'
'Don't come any nearer, please. It IS so absurd.'
'What is absurd, Rosa?'
'The whole thing is. It IS so absurd to be an engaged orphan and it IS so absurd to have the girls and the servants scuttling about after one, like mice in the wainscot; and it IS so absurd to be called upon!'
The apparition appears to have a thumb in the corner of its mouth while making this complaint.
'You give me an affectionate reception, Pussy, I must say.'
'Well, I will in a minute, Eddy, but I can't just yet. How are you?' (very shortly.)
'I am unable to reply that I am much the better for seeing you, Pussy, inasmuch as I see nothing of you.'
This second remonstrance brings a dark, bright, pouting eye out from a corner of the apron; but it swiftly becomes invisible again, as the apparition exclaims: 'O good gracious! you have had half your hair cut off!'
'I should have done better to have had my head cut off, I think,' says Edwin, rumpling the hair in question, with a fierce glance at the looking-glass, and giving an impatient stamp. 'Shall I go?'
'No; you needn't go just yet, Eddy. The girls would all be asking questions why you went.'
'Once for all, Rosa, will you uncover that ridiculous little head of yours and give me a welcome?'
The apron is pulled off the childish head, as its wearer replies: 'You're very welcome, Eddy. There! I'm sure that's nice. Shake hands. No, I can't kiss you, because I've got an acidulated drop in my mouth.'
'Are you at all glad to see me, Pussy?'
'O, yes, I'm dreadfully glad.--Go and sit down.--Miss Twinkleton.'
It is the custom of that excellent lady when these visits occur, to appear every three minutes, either in her own person or in that of Mrs. Tisher, and lay an offering on the shrine of Propriety by affecting to look for some desiderated article. On the present occasion Miss Twinkleton, gracefully gliding in and out, says in passing: 'How do you do, Mr. Drood? Very glad indeed to have the pleasure. Pray excuse me. Tweezers. Thank you!'
'I got the gloves last evening, Eddy, and I like them very much. They are beauties.'
'Well, that's something,' the affianced replies, half grumbling. 'The smallest encouragement thankfully received. And how did you pass your birthday, Pussy?'
'Delightfully! Everybody gave me a present. And we had a feast. And we had a ball at night.'
'A feast and a ball, eh? These occasions seem to go off tolerably well without me, Pussy.'
'De-lightfully!' cries Rosa, in a quite spontaneous manner, and without the least pretence of reserve.
'Hah! And what was the feast?'
'Tarts, oranges, jellies, and shrimps.'
'Any partners at the ball?'
'We danced with one another, of course, sir. But some of the girls made game to be their brothers. It WAS so droll!'
'Did anybody make game to be--'
'To be you? O dear yes!' cries Rosa, laughing with great enjoyment. 'That was the first thing done.'
'I hope she did it pretty well,' says Edwin rather doubtfully.
'O, it was excellent!--I wouldn't dance with you, you know.'
Edwin scarcely seems to see the force of this; begs to know if he may take the liberty to ask why?
'Because I was so tired of you,' returns Rosa. But she quickly adds, and pleadingly too, seeing displeasure in his face: 'Dear Eddy, you were just as tired of me, you know.'
'Did I say so, Rosa?'
'Say so! Do you ever say so? No, you only showed it. O, she did it so well!' cries Rosa, in a sudden ecstasy with her counterfeit betrothed.
'It strikes me that she must be a devilish impudent girl,' says Edwin Drood. 'And so, Pussy, you have passed your last birthday in this old house.'
'Ah, yes!' Rosa clasps her hands, looks down with a sigh, and shakes her head.
'You seem to be sorry, Rosa.'
'I am sorry for the poor old place. Somehow, I feel as if it would miss me, when I am gone so far away, so young.'
'Perhaps we had better stop short, Rosa?'
She looks up at him with a swift bright look; next moment shakes her head, sighs, and looks down again.
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