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- The Mystery of Edwin Drood - 6/60 -
'That is to say, is it, Pussy, that we are both resigned?'
She nods her head again, and after a short silence, quaintly bursts out with: 'You know we must be married, and married from here, Eddy, or the poor girls will be so dreadfully disappointed!'
For the moment there is more of compassion, both for her and for himself, in her affianced husband's face, than there is of love. He checks the look, and asks: 'Shall I take you out for a walk, Rosa dear?'
Rosa dear does not seem at all clear on this point, until her face, which has been comically reflective, brightens. 'O, yes, Eddy; let us go for a walk! And I tell you what we'll do. You shall pretend that you are engaged to somebody else, and I'll pretend that I am not engaged to anybody, and then we shan't quarrel.'
'Do you think that will prevent our falling out, Rosa?'
'I know it will. Hush! Pretend to look out of window--Mrs. Tisher!'
Through a fortuitous concourse of accidents, the matronly Tisher heaves in sight, says, in rustling through the room like the legendary ghost of a dowager in silken skirts: 'I hope I see Mr. Drood well; though I needn't ask, if I may judge from his complexion. I trust I disturb no one; but there WAS a paper-knife- -O, thank you, I am sure!' and disappears with her prize.
'One other thing you must do, Eddy, to oblige me,' says Rosebud. 'The moment we get into the street, you must put me outside, and keep close to the house yourself--squeeze and graze yourself against it.'
'By all means, Rosa, if you wish it. Might I ask why?'
'O! because I don't want the girls to see you.'
'It's a fine day; but would you like me to carry an umbrella up?'
'Don't be foolish, sir. You haven't got polished leather boots on,' pouting, with one shoulder raised.
'Perhaps that might escape the notice of the girls, even if they did see me,' remarks Edwin, looking down at his boots with a sudden distaste for them.
'Nothing escapes their notice, sir. And then I know what would happen. Some of them would begin reflecting on me by saying (for THEY are free) that they never will on any account engage themselves to lovers without polished leather boots. Hark! Miss Twinkleton. I'll ask for leave.'
That discreet lady being indeed heard without, inquiring of nobody in a blandly conversational tone as she advances: 'Eh? Indeed! Are you quite sure you saw my mother-of-pearl button-holder on the work-table in my room?' is at once solicited for walking leave, and graciously accords it. And soon the young couple go out of the Nuns' House, taking all precautions against the discovery of the so vitally defective boots of Mr. Edwin Drood: precautions, let us hope, effective for the peace of Mrs. Edwin Drood that is to be.
'Which way shall we take, Rosa?'
Rosa replies: 'I want to go to the Lumps-of-Delight shop.'
'A Turkish sweetmeat, sir. My gracious me, don't you understand anything? Call yourself an Engineer, and not know THAT?'
'Why, how should I know it, Rosa?'
'Because I am very fond of them. But O! I forgot what we are to pretend. No, you needn't know anything about them; never mind.'
So he is gloomily borne off to the Lumps-of-Delight shop, where Rosa makes her purchase, and, after offering some to him (which he rather indignantly declines), begins to partake of it with great zest: previously taking off and rolling up a pair of little pink gloves, like rose-leaves, and occasionally putting her little pink fingers to her rosy lips, to cleanse them from the Dust of Delight that comes off the Lumps.
'Now, be a good-tempered Eddy, and pretend. And so you are engaged?'
'And so I am engaged.'
'Is she nice?'
'Immensely tall!' Rosa being short.
'Must be gawky, I should think,' is Rosa's quiet commentary.
'I beg your pardon; not at all,' contradiction rising in him.
'What is termed a fine woman; a splendid woman.'
'Big nose, no doubt,' is the quiet commentary again.
'Not a little one, certainly,' is the quick reply, (Rosa's being a little one.)
'Long pale nose, with a red knob in the middle. I know the sort of nose,' says Rosa, with a satisfied nod, and tranquilly enjoying the Lumps.
'You DON'T know the sort of nose, Rosa,' with some warmth; 'because it's nothing of the kind.'
'Not a pale nose, Eddy?'
'No.' Determined not to assent.
'A red nose? O! I don't like red noses. However; to be sure she can always powder it.'
'She would scorn to powder it,' says Edwin, becoming heated.
'Would she? What a stupid thing she must be! Is she stupid in everything?'
'No; in nothing.'
After a pause, in which the whimsically wicked face has not been unobservant of him, Rosa says:
'And this most sensible of creatures likes the idea of being carried off to Egypt; does she, Eddy?'
'Yes. She takes a sensible interest in triumphs of engineering skill: especially when they are to change the whole condition of an undeveloped country.'
'Lor!' says Rosa, shrugging her shoulders, with a little laugh of wonder.
'Do you object,' Edwin inquires, with a majestic turn of his eyes downward upon the fairy figure: 'do you object, Rosa, to her feeling that interest?'
'Object? my dear Eddy! But really, doesn't she hate boilers and things?'
'I can answer for her not being so idiotic as to hate Boilers,' he returns with angry emphasis; 'though I cannot answer for her views about Things; really not understanding what Things are meant.'
'But don't she hate Arabs, and Turks, and Fellahs, and people?'
'Certainly not.' Very firmly.
'At least she MUST hate the Pyramids? Come, Eddy?'
'Why should she be such a little--tall, I mean--goose, as to hate the Pyramids, Rosa?'
'Ah! you should hear Miss Twinkleton,' often nodding her head, and much enjoying the Lumps, 'bore about them, and then you wouldn't ask. Tiresome old burying-grounds! Isises, and Ibises, and Cheopses, and Pharaohses; who cares about them? And then there was Belzoni, or somebody, dragged out by the legs, half-choked with bats and dust. All the girls say: Serve him right, and hope it hurt him, and wish he had been quite choked.'
The two youthful figures, side by side, but not now arm-in-arm, wander discontentedly about the old Close; and each sometimes stops and slowly imprints a deeper footstep in the fallen leaves.
'Well!' says Edwin, after a lengthy silence. 'According to custom. We can't get on, Rosa.'
Rosa tosses her head, and says she don't want to get on.
'That's a pretty sentiment, Rosa, considering.'
'If I say what, you'll go wrong again.'
'YOU'LL go wrong, you mean, Eddy. Don't be ungenerous.'
'Ungenerous! I like that!'
'Then I DON'T like that, and so I tell you plainly,' Rosa pouts.
'Now, Rosa, I put it to you. Who disparaged my profession, my destination--'
'You are not going to be buried in the Pyramids, I hope?' she interrupts, arching her delicate eyebrows. 'You never said you were. If you are, why haven't you mentioned it to me? I can't find out your plans by instinct.'
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