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The Mystery of Edwin Drood

A Picture and a Ring
BEHIND the most ancient part of Holborn, London, where certain gabled houses some
centuries of age still stand looking on the public way, as if disconsolately looking for the
Old Bourne that has long run dry, is a little nook composed of two irregular quadrangles,
called Staple Inn. It is one of those nooks, the turning into which out of the clashing
street, imparts to the relieved pedestrian the sensation of having put cotton in his ears,
and velvet soles on his boots. It is one of those nooks where a few smoky sparrows
twitter in smoky trees, as though they called to one another, 'Let us play at country,' and
where a few feet of garden-mould and a few yards of gravel enable them to do that
refreshing violence to their tiny understandings. Moreover, it is one of those nooks which
are legal nooks; and it contains a little Hall, with a little lantern in its roof: to what
obstructive purposes devoted, and at whose expense, this history knoweth not.
In the days when Cloisterham took offence at the existence of a railroad afar off, as
menacing that sensitive constitution, the property of us Britons: the odd fortune of which
sacred institution it is to be in exactly equal degrees croaked about, trembled for, and
boasted of, whatever happens to anything, anywhere in the world: in those days no
neighbouring architecture of lofty proportions had arisen to overshadow Staple Inn. The
westering sun bestowed bright glances on it, and the south-west wind blew into it
unimpeded.
Neither wind nor sun, however, favoured Staple Inn one December afternoon towards six
o'clock, when it was filled with fog, and candles shed murky and blurred rays through the
windows of all its then-occupied sets of chambers; notably from a set of chambers in a
corner house in the little inner quadrangle, presenting in black and white over its ugly
portal the mysterious inscription:
P J T 1747
In which set of chambers, never having troubled his head about the inscription, unless to
bethink himself at odd times on glancing up at it, that haply it might mean Perhaps John
Thomas, or Perhaps Joe Tyler, sat Mr. Grewgious writing by his fire.
Who could have told, by looking at Mr. Grewgious, whether he had ever known ambition
or disappointment? He had been bred to the Bar, and had laid himself out for chamber
practice; to draw deeds; 'convey the wise it call,' as Pistol says. But Conveyancing and he
had made such a very indifferent marriage of it that they had separated by consent - if
there can be said to be separation where there has never been coming together.
No. Coy Conveyancing would not come to Mr. Grewgious. She was wooed, not won, and
they went their several ways. But an Arbitration being blown towards him by some
unaccountable wind, and he gaining great credit in it as one indefatigable in seeking out
right and doing right, a pretty fat Receivership was next blown into his pocket by a wind
more traceable to its source. So, by chance, he had found his niche. Receiver and Agent
 
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